Guillermo Del Toro is an absolute god among film fans, and from the moment that Nightmare Alley starts, it immediately reminds you why that is. The film is a remake of a 1947 film of the same name, which follows a man who wanders into a carnival and isn’t quite who he seems to be. I’ll leave the plot vague, because I went into this having not seen any of the marketing for this film nor the original 1947 film.. and let me tell you; it’s quite the narrative rollercoaster when you don’t know what you’re walking into.
First things first, the performances across the board here are stellar – but you’ve come to expect that with Guillermo del Toro and the casts he usually ensembles. Bradley Cooper is the lead here, and turns in one of his darker and more unsettling yet nonetheless fascinating performances yet. Cate Blanchett also shines as a mysterious psychiatrist who gets a lot of meaty material to work with. Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara, Richard Jenkins, Toni Collette, Ron Perlman, and many more make up the rest of the cast here – and they’re all equally impressive and scene-stealing.
Yet even with the amazing performances, it’s truly Guillermo’s direction that everyone is coming here to see – and he doesn’t disappoint. This has all the trademark signature directorial prints you’d come to expect from the uneasy feeling that he seemingly, effortlessly exhibits to the moments of genuine intrigue with a plot that unravels fabulously. The film jumps genres and tones like no ones business in a way that, under a lesser director, would give you whiplash. But thankfully, Guillermo del Toro is the man for the job and delivers a sturdy, haunting film.
If I had to complain at all, it’s that I think the second half of this film is significantly better than the first half. While I think the first half is quite good, the second half turns into an absolutely fantastic piece of work that amplifies the tension and style to an extreme. But even with that being said, I could see myself going back for a rewatch in the coming years and learning to appreciate the nuances and setups of the first half even more in retrospect of knowing whats going to happen.