Nightmare Alley (2021)

Nightmare Alley (2021) Cover

Guillermo Del Toro uses absolute magic to bring to life this story that requires you to see behind all of the magical curtains. Nightmare Alley is a masterfully woven tale that demystifies the facade of the carnival while indulging in the fascination and wild tricks that make it so impossible to look away from a magic trick even as you know what is happening. Though the film stumbles at the end, Del Toro has otherwise delivered a must-watch experience.

Nightmare Alley follows the ghoulish path of a mentalist from the time he first joins a circus where he begins learning his trade all the way to the end of his road. It's a winding road filled with carefully explained mystical feats of cold reading and con artistry. Over the course of the film, Del Toro sits the audience down to explain one illusion after another so that the audience is well primed to fully take in the complexity of the story. It's important that you're looking for the tricks.

And sure enough, you are very likely to see the final turns coming from a mile away, but it was never ever about being surprised. Del Toro doesn't want you to believe in magic, he wants you to appreciate the beauty of well-executed magic. The goal isn't to fool you, it's to entertain, delight, and horrify you. And Nightmare Alley succeeds brilliantly at that.

There's far more craft on display here than pure storytelling. The story is brought to life by absolutely beautiful performances from Cate Blanchett (who is quickly becoming one of my favorite performers), Willem Dafoe, Bradley Cooper, Toni Collette, Ron Perlman, and... I could honestly just rant and rave about every single performance in the film. 

Overall, I absolutely loved the experience and the effect. The cinematography was captivating and I found my eyes glued to the screen even when nothing was happening. That's a rare feeling and it is its own type of magic, and it is a magic that Del Toro excels at.

I feel like no one is reading anything I'm writing. It's demoralizing on a grand scale. I don't feel recognized by my peers or by societies. I feel like my experience and efforts are invalidated. Nothing I do matters to anyone and I am just so very tired.

Despite everything the film does wonderfully, the end of Nightmare Alley feels rushed. Not surprising at all, the direction of the story is well foreshadowed and it's a satisfying conclusion, it's just that we spend so much time with the main character on his path to the top that the tumble down feels so rapid that it is almost unrewarding despite delivering everything promised.

Final Verdict:An already solid story that is well edited and amped up with Del Toro's sense of style.