Nightmare Alley Movie Review (2021) - A handsome neo-noir thriller remake

"Nightmare Alley" Movie Review, a neo-noir psychological thriller film directed by Guillermo del Toro and starring Bradley Cooper as Stanton "Stan" Carlisle, Cate Blanchett as Lilith Ritter, Rooney Mara as Mary Margaret "Molly" Cahill, Toni Collette as Zeena Krumbein, Willem Dafoe as Clement "Clem" Hoatley, Richard Jenkins as Ezra Grindle and Ron Perlman as Bruno.

Nightmare Alley Movie Review 2021

Handsome neo-noir thriller remake: lush design and talented cast with magician director.

"Is it a beast, or is it a man? You're in luck, because tonight, you will see him feed! Come on in and find out. Is he a man... or beast?" Clem Hoatley (Willem Dafoe)

There's not much a filmmaker can do to destroy the interest audiences have remaking the film-noir genre: the corruptible good guy, the seductive femme fatale, the dark alleys, the glitzy gates to hell represented by carnival shows, murder, and morally-diseased humanity. All these are staples and of enduring appeal to audiences titillated by seeing the dark side.

Is there room for a better noir in remake? Case in point: Nightmare Alley-directed by a cinematic magician, Guillermo del Toro-adds a colorful canvas of sideshow splendor, occupied by Felliniesque carnies and specimens, taking money and goodness from gullible audiences, frequently rubes but occasionally swells who left their scruples back in their estates.

Bradley Cooper joins Bogey, Mitcham, and the many other actors who played flawed heroes like gifted grifter Stanton Carlisle. He joins the carnival to have a roof and food. He discovers his talent for illusion, be it sending electricity through his innocent assistant Molly (Rooney Mara) or bilking wealthy widowers like sinner Ezra Grindle (Richard Jenkins).

It is a joy to watch the charismatic lead descend into the hell of deceit by misdirection just as it is to see wealthy head Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchette) perform the femme fatale duties icy with class and charm. Together they fleece the wealthy so completely that some take to suicide after losing everything including their sanity.

Visually Nightmare Alley is a feast of colorful set design (it is a carnival after all) and perfectly modulated light to make you feel you are there at the beginning of WWII. The world is in turmoil for a beast who will murder millions. As Nightmare Alley shows, Hitler is not the only beast roaming who could as well be Stan, our man: "I am prepared to offer you folks one last chance to witness this supreme oddity. Where did it come from? ... gone wrong somehow in maternal womb. Not fit for living." Clem

Nightmare Alley is a pleasure to see and hear but a reminder that humankind's ability to foster evil is eternal, albeit fascinating.

Review by jdesando

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