Nightmare Alley (2021)

Nightmare Alley.

“You don't fool people Stan, they fool themselves”

Guillermo del Toro's Nightmare Alley arrives in all its noir glory. I kept thinking to myself as I was watching the film that who ever directed this is a fan of the film noir genre, well film noir movies from the bygone era of the 40s.

Nightmare Alley is a very straight forward cautionary tale, but it really gets going in its second half where its core themes are at play, mainly that the fall of men (in this case Stan) is greed, and not knowing when to stop. Morals and ethics seem to go out the window when money is involved, men becomes something sinister yet predictable.

It's such a gorgeous film, the camera is rarely static and you can tell that Guillermo del Toro and cinematographer Dan Laustsen were having fun, especially in that first half of the film. Where the camera was always moving around the carnival and drawing us into these eccentric characters and their world. In the second half it moves to show us the truth about human nature and immerses us into the world of shadows and con men.

The film is wonderfully written by del Toro and Kim Morgan but one area I feel like the writing didn't do so well in, was in the love story and that translated heavily on screen for me. The relationship was empty and could have been left out in my opinion. This aspect of the film didn't feel authentic to me, there was a real lack of passion and despite having Rooney Mara and Bradley Cooper, their stellar performances was not enough to ignite the passion between their two characters.

Speaking of passion, Cate Blanchett was a scene stealer in this. From the way the camera first reveals her, and how she's lit and to even her very first words, we knew who she was and we knew that Stan's world was about to crumble. Cate ate (ha ha) every single scene she was in, from the mannerisms to everything! She stole the show for me and she's like in this for a good 30 mins or less.

Overall, I enjoyed this film. It had wonderful cinematography that really immersed me into this world of carnies and con men. The performances were stellar and the film itself is like a love letter to film noir. Also the last 6 or 7 scenes of this are brilliant. I loved everything from the graveyard scene until the end. One can't deny the talent that is Guillermo del Toro and how he's able to find empathy even in the shadows. Guillermo's Nightmare Alley has the body of a 1940s noir film but its heart is full of modernism.