Nightmare Alley

Nightmare Alley

An ambitious carnival man with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words hooks up with a female psychologist who is even more dangerous than he is.

  • Released: 2021-12-02
  • Runtime: 150 minutes
  • Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
  • Stars: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, David Strathairn, Holt McCallany, Mark Povinelli, Jim Beaver, Romina Power, Paul Anderson, Tim Blake Nelson, Mary Steenburgen, Clifton Collins Jr., Lara Jean Chorostecki, Drew Nelson, David Hewlett, Troy James, Samantha Rodes, Peter MacNeill, Sarah Mennell, Mike Hill, Caleb Ellsworth-Clark, Dian Bachar, Matthew MacCallum, Linden Porco, Jesse Buck, Stephen McHattie, Bill MacDonald, Natalie Brown, Perry Mucci, Dan Lett, Catherine McGregor, Martin Julien, Tim Post, Will Conlon, Daniel Falk, James Collins, Lili Connor, Danny Waugh, Walter Rinaldi, Andrew Locke, Calvin Desautels, Derrick Moore, Grant Bradley, Dani Klupsch, Vikki Ring, Vanessa Botbyl, Michael Bridgeman, Charles Langille, Paul Taylor, Clyde Whitham, Romina Power
  • Director: Guillermo del Toro
  • mattflohr - 16 April 2024
    Sloppy, meandering
    Really expected more from Guillermo. Performances are okay, particularly from Rooney Mara. However this film has boring style and a dearth of substance. Technically it's dull and safe. Doesn't have Del Toro's signature stamp on it. Story and character beats fall flat, the subject matter feels too familiar and obvious in the modern day, dialogue is clunky and inaudible, and at several points is totally mismatched to the movement of the characters' mouths. Editing issues abound, both structurally and within scenes. Bradley Cooper is serviceable but overrated in my opinion, and he fails to elevate this material. Willem Dafoe, Ron Perlman, and Holt McCallany are totally wasted. David Straithairn is pretty good. Toni Colette is excellent. Richard Jenkins I would watch read the phone book. But the story doesn't pay off the good performances in any satisfying way. The ending falls flat. Overall would not recommend.
  • zardoz-13 - 27 November 2023
    The Tragedy of Human Nature
    "Hellboy" helmer Guillermo del Toro surpasses himself with his verison of William Lindsay Gresham's novel "Nightmare Alley." Mind you, I still prefer director Edmund Goulding's tale on this grim, unsavory, yarn about a mentalist whose thirst for power consumes him. Indeed, the 2021 version seems more fleshed out in terms of plot and provides greater explanation about the gags that carnival hucksters use against unsuspecting rubes. The black & white photography of the Tyrone Power version was more atmospheric. Looking at the two movies, the Goulding version is easier to handle, principally because we have some doubts about Power's Stan Carlisle winning redemption in the end, while Bradley Cooper's Carlisle is a dastard from the start, burning up a house to conceal the murder of his father. Power's Carlisle in the 1947 version is a much more sympathetic fellow. There is no room for sympathy for the Cooper incarnation. He is bad to bone from the beginning, and there is no doubt about his duplicity in the 2021 film. Ultimately, because Daryl F. Zanuck wanted to salvage a film that he produced with great misgivings to please his matinee idol star, he changed the ending. Sadly, the '47 "Nightmare Alley" flop, but it afford Power with the chance to play a character instead of a stereotype. The seasons of the year differ between these two films. The garden scene at the end takes place in a surreal setting, like a summer evening, while in the Cooper version, the garden scenes occurs in a cold, snowswept garden. Of course, many of the differences between the two films is purely cultural. The Goulding version was made during the reign of the Production Code Office whose censors cracked down on anything remotely amoral or provocative. The subject of the code that Zeena used is veiled with little description so audiences would know how grifters worked. On the other hand, de Toro and freshman scribe Kim Morgan lavishes lots of time in explaining the enigmatic code the Stan used during his act when he reads the minds of certain audience members. "Nightmare Alley" belongs to the film noir category because life is essentially a trap that we ensure ourselves in and struggle extricate ourselves from no matter what. The two Stans are running from a lurid past. The Cooper version explains and illustrates everything whereas the Power version didn't. Comparably speaking, the Dr. Lilith Ritter character is ten times more devious in the Cooper version. Indeed, she lives up to his mythic origins as a 'she-demon.' While de Toro lets us watch Stan's demise, the director must have had some sympathy for Stan because he did not depict Stan's eventual breakdown in the way that Goulding initially did before the '47 Stan was redeemed.
  • jpismyname - 30 December 2022
    Beautiful, engrossing film
    Nightmare Alley is set in the 1940s. Bradley Cooper plays a carnival worker named Stanton Carlisle, who later becomes a fraud mentalist. He then meets some new clients, who then try to expose the truth of his work. The movie is based on a 1946 novel.

    The cast is full of Academy Award nominees and winners, and they are all fantastic, my favorite being Cate Blanchett's enigmatic character. Bradley Cooper did a perfect job as the self-centered and possibly evil magician. The cinematography is stunning and artistic.

    Before I watched this yesterday on Disney Plus, I've barely seen the trailer and I never knew about the novel so I was expecting a horror movie based on the title alone. But I was wrong. It's the tragic tale of a sham magician who gets his karma in the end. The story is a slow burn and has a simple narrative, but it catches my interest until the end of the movie. I really love it, especially the climax when the lies catch up on him. Guillermo del Toro is a gifted storyteller.

    Definitely recommend this movie.
  • WeskersWaifu - 25 November 2022
    Do Not Sleep On This Noir Masterpiece
    The only reason I haven't given this movie a 10 out of 10 is because it can be slow in parts, alas a tad bit boring in those moments but if for nothing else any fan of Noir or Thriller movies NEED to watch this film. Cate Blanchett is superb, her role as a psychologist was, in the least to say, breath taking. The whole movie was haunting, thrilling, sad and just beautiful.

    The casting choices were on point, the acting, directing, the script was excellent and it truly was a film that was difficult to turn away from. It is the ending though that you'll forever remember if you watch it and it will make you want to watch it again. I have always loved Noir/Neo-Noir films and this is certainly one of my favourites.
  • FreakingMovieFanatic - 16 October 2022
    Maybe I missed something?
    But this film was a serious chore to watch. The pace it moved at was gruelling. At a runtime of 2hrs and 30min I was very skeptical in watching something like this. However numerous reviews from both here and RT had peaked my curiosity.

    So I went over to Disney+ (Canada) and started to watch this thing.

    Bradley Cooper, Ron Pearlman, Cate Blanchett, Mara Rooney to name but a few were all top of their game in this without question! It was merely the long, convoluted story (pacing) that was really hard to endure.

    Del Toro nailed the production with incredible set pieces and great camera work.

    But again it was a ghastly chore to sit through.

    And the ending? Still puzzled. Sorry. Got some of it (the "twist") but not all of it.

    Mediocre Recommendation at best.
  • vancelee77 - 25 August 2022
    This is the second del toro movie i have seen, i tried his earlier fantasy flicks only to abort them after 10 minutes.

    "the shape of water" tho cliched and formulaic, showed his growth as a director /writer

    many times if a director wins an oscar his next movie is snubbed as was the case on "nightmare alley"

    he is going more mainstream and watching it a second time was even more rewarding.