Review in Brief: Nightmare Alley (2021)

Following his Oscar win for THE SHAPE OF WATER, Guillermo del Toro could have done anything; Hollywood was his. He eventually decided on NIGHTMARE ALLEY, mounting a twisty and epic in scope noir-psychological-thriller based on an obscure novel from the 40s. Drifter-turned-conman Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) joins a traveling carnival and together with fellow carny Molly Cahill (Rooney Mara) develops a successful mentalism show that attracts the attention of the rich and powerful, including perceptive psychologist Dr Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett) and paranoid millionaire recluse Ezra Grindle (Richard Jenkins) leading Stanton down an inevitable, doomed path. This isn’t the kind of film for people who like concrete answers and neat resolution, but by golly is it one that provokes debate, envelops you in its murky sideshow world and leaves you guessing about its enigmatic and contradictory lead character, wonderfully realised by Cooper. Transfixing, bewildering and gruesome in equal measure, a very del Toro kind of circus attraction, basically. SSP

About Sam Sewell-Peterson

Writer and film fanatic fond of black comedies, sci-fi, animation and films about dysfunctional families.
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