Set within a well designed gloomy world, Nightmare Alley excels in its visuals and provides despicable characters that deteriorate under their own weight, but unfortunately struggles to pace itself through its 150 minute runtime.
Written by Elliot Lines
Stanley Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) joins up with a travelling carnival, becoming one of the family he learns his trade of manipulating people, something he is very skilled at. When he walks away from the carny to perform in the city, he crosses paths with psychiatrist Dr. Lilith Ritter, who may be just as manipulative, if not more so, than Carlisle is.
Directed by Guillermo del Toro, you can feel his stamp all over the film. His gritty, dark style resonates throughout each scene. From the weirdness of the carnival folk to the dark intentions of Carlisle and Dr. Ritter, there is an air of evil shadowing the whole journey Carlisle goes on, in which his decent as a person was inevitable.
Bradley Cooper gives a mesmerising performance, with a characters life, that due to his own greed, starts to deteriorate rapidly, and with plenty of screen time he is definitely the lead of the film. But Cate Blanchett is the scene stealer here. Even when they are together she looms over him, sucking all the air out the room, manipulating the manipulator in every step he takes. And she sells Dr. Ritter's empowerment.
There are moments throughout Nightmare Alley where you do question the direction the film is taking, but ultimately the outcome is fairly predictable, when a few lines of dialogue are caught. However, the deep interest in the direction feels like you're always waiting for something to happen, and with a 150 minute runtime it certainly causes pacing issues. It's not until the last 20 minutes that the film ramps up, but I can't emphasise anymore, it ramps right up.
Guillermo del Toro's Nightmare Alley showcases the vibes he brings to his movies. With a great leading performance from Bradley Cooper and captivating show stealer from Cate Blanchett, the film goes into 5th gear in the final act but up to that point has a sluggish build up, where you're waiting for more to happen.