review by Bobby Blakey
Director Guillermo del Toro is one of the more unique voices in Hollywood bringing some beautiful and strange films to life including Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak and more recently The Shape of Water. Now his next vision Nightmare Alley, based on the novel by William Lindsay Gresham, is coming to the screen, but does this latest nightmare deliver the fun and freaks of the carnival or will it fail to pull off the con?
Nightmare Alley follows an ambitious carny with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words hooks up with a female psychiatrist who is even more dangerous than he is. The film features a great cast including starring Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, and David Strathairn.
For fans of the 1947 film this is not a remake of that but instead a new take on the original novel. The vibe of this film reminded me a lot of the HBO series Carnavale which I loved and I loved this film even more. The story is simple, but filled with so many layers of betrayal, heart, hate and everything in between it makes for a compelling tale. It’s the kind of story we don’t get enough of and I am not sure anyone other than Del Toro could have made it work like he does.
This world of carnies and con artists is brought to the surface with the arrival of Cooper’s character who has a past of his own, but finds a home here. This makes for some great moments of not only meeting this great cast of carnie folk, but also a peak behind the curtain to how they pull off some of their tricks and scams. There is just something about the world of the traveling carnival that has always interested me and this dark take on the world is so good.
The second half of the film takes it in a different direction continuing the con, but outside of the carnival which I thought was going to make it lose some steam, but ended up being just as good if not better. Cooper is so
good in this role bringing the charisma, depth and seediness of the role that you want to like but also know he’s shady. The supporting cast are all great as well fully immersing you into their worlds.
The look and feel of the whole thing just works with the carnival itself becoming a character all its own. I think this will be a film that might not work for everyone and does get pretty violent in the last half, but for me it was perfection. In addition to the film this release offers up bonus content including featurettes on bringing this film noir to life. Grab your copy of Nightmare Alley available now on digital and then on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD on March 22nd from Searchlight Pictures.