Movie Review: Nightmare Alley (2021)

Now in theatres, Hulu, HBO Max.

Drifters and grifters get director Guillermo del Toro’s macabre treatment in the 2021 remake of Nightmare Alley (B), an impeccably made and sometimes meandering film noir with a crackerjack Cate Blanchett infused final act. Set in early 1940s America, the movie is a showcase for Bradley Cooper as a mysterious nomad who works odd jobs in carnivals and leverages his talents as a cipher and sponge to become a bit of a mentalist to the upper class. Like many films in this genre, the antihero’s past is catching up with him, but the stakes in this case seem oddly low for much of the film’s prodigious duration. Cooper only occasionally captivates opposite a parade of colorful co-stars ranging from Willem Dafoe to Richard Jenkins to the aforementioned Blanchett (herself the most interesting character of all, an icy therapist). The production design is singularly exquisite, in both the roadside attractions and art deco upper crust sequences, and there is much to like when the characters give a glimpse behind their humble magic tricks. It’s a good but not great effort from a visionary who typically has a bit more up his sleeve.

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