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Home > Nightmare Alley (2021): A Review

Nightmare Alley (2021): A Review

Nightmare Alley

All The World's a Stage

A murder, simple and quiet, is the prelude to Guillermo del Toro’s intriguing release Nightmare Alley. And quite the story does del Toro weave. 

Nightmare Alley and its Jewels

Nightmare Alley premièred in 2021 with its cast of stellar actors Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Willem Defoe, Toni Collette, Rooney Mara, and Ron Perlman. Expectations were high, leading fans to wonder what nightmarish masterpiece del Toro would bring to the silver screen. Perhaps it would be in the vein of Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) or Crimson Peak (2015). Wonderfully the film is more than impressive and stands on its own merits. Four Oscar nominations stand as proof. 

Come One, Come All

Nightmare Alley is classified as a crime drama and thriller. The film takes place in a time foregone but not forgotten and dives below the lights of the Big Top and velvet curtains of the carnival life. 

Center Ring: A Grifter

A man named Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) takes the center ring in this tragic tale.  His tale explores a man’s journey to self-discovery, ultimately unmasking the person beneath the disguises. Given a more in-depth look, Nightmare Alley explores the topic of the intermingling of greed and fate. 

Stanton Up Close & Personal

Stanton is a grifter or two-bit hustler. His trade is his identity, and all paths lead him to his finality. Cunning, charm, and wit are the tools he uses to manipulate his way out of the station where he finds himself. And they are the same tools that unlock his fate.

Nightmare Alley

All The World’s a Stage: Everyone Players

Chance brings Stanton to a carnival where he apprentices. As a new carnie, he climbs his way up the ladder of presumable status. However, egotistical lusts are never fully satisfied. Alas, Stanton’s desire for more pushes him to peddle his skills to more affluent circles. As luck would have it, he chances upon Dr. Liliith Ritter, a beauty and a charmer, who will be instrumental in his ascension and downfall.

The Monster & The Acts That Accompany Him

The monster is fully human, casting quite the shadow. Several others play alongside the beast, each instrumental in his rise, fall, and revelation. The roster of characters includes Ezra Grindle (Richard Jenkins), carnival manager, Molly Cahill (Rooney Mara), the grifters flame, Bruno (Ron Perlman), the strong man, Pete (David Stratham), resident mentalist, and Zeena the Seer (Toni Collette) the psychic. They accompany the grifter on his road to discovery. They are all instrumental in the progression toward who he steadily becomes. 

Behind the Curtain: Wrapping up The Show

The story is not an edge-of-seat adrenaline fest but a flowing tale requiring attentiveness. The set is beautifully retrofitted, with a cast of characters flourishing against the backdrop. Bradley Cooper masterfully plays the grifter giving Nightmare Alley a certain je ne sais quois.

Final Curtain Call 

The darker side of an individual’s psyche can be pretty nightmarish, especially an inescapable one. And sometimes, it’s difficult to digest that one can’t always outrun their destiny. But, even sadder is the realization that it is one’s actions that lead to destruction.

Nightmare Alley is a must-see not merely for its cinematography and casting. The cinematic release is a beautiful exploration of the darker side of the human condition that can be found streaming on Hulu. 

Nightmare Alley

Nightmare Alley (2021) Official Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Renae M. Richardson
I am a writing enthusiast and Entertainment journalist. I live life with unbridled passion. And I live by the mantra love what you do, and do what you love!