Starring: Bradley Cooper, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Toni Collette, Richard Jenkins, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, David Strathairn, Holt McCallany, and Mark Povinelli
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Nightmare Alley is a film that rewards patience, as it’s a slow-paced film whose runtime you can definitely feel. That said, while the first two acts deliver a chilling noir, the third act is an absolute stunner that pays off everything the movie has set up. And, whatever you think of the movie, it is a technical marvel, from the cinematography to the production design. On top of that, it has a wonderful cast lead by an incredible Bradley Cooper, but it’s Cate Blanchett who completely steals the show. One of writer/director Guillermo del Toro’s best films to date.
Nightmare Alley’s second half is one of the year’s most visually arresting and well-crafted projects, a whirlwind of visionary filmmaking with stellar production design and gorgeous score work from Nathan Johnson. Unfortunately, that vision doesn’t fully apply to the first half of writer/director Guillermo Del Toro’s Shape of Water follow-up. In truth, the film is thoroughly well-designed throughout, but its beginnings lack a sense of momentum sorely needed to push the story where it needs to go. It gets there eventually, especially once Cate Blanchett shows up to steal the show, but by then, the pacing has largely soured.
The first thing you should know about Nightmare Alley is that it feels way longer than it is, which is not a compliment for a 2.5-hour movie. Despite excellent acting, a terrific noir vibe, and an ending that I lowkey loved, the movie is mostly a bore. Parts will make you sit up and think “oh, it’s about to get interesting!”…but it never truly does. Frankly, it’s just too much story to tell. Still, I didn’t hate it, and I can’t say it isn’t worth watching at least once, but it failed to live up to my relatively moderate expectations.