Movie Review: Nightmare Alley (2021)

Sometimes you don’t see the line until you cross it.

-Stanton Carlisle-

There’s No Shortcuts in Life

Nightmare Alley is based on the novel by William Lindsay Gresham and screenplay written by Guillermo del Toro and Kim Morgan. The movie is rated R and is 2 hours and 30 minutes long. The essence of this movie while much of it is located on circus grounds also belongs to the intentions of the carnies and motives of the audience. This drama/thriller is about Stanton Carlisle (played by Bradley Cooper) who meets a collection of eccentrics that he doesn’t know whether to trust or not. Wanting more from the carnival life, he seeks to advance himself through a partnership with an equally cunning professional. The movie also stars Cate Blanchette as Lilith Ritter, Toni Collette as Zeena Krumbein, William Dafoe as Clement Hoatley, Rooney Mara as Molly Cahill, Ron Perlman as Bruno, David Strathairn as Peter Krumbein, Holt McCallany as Anderson, Lara Jean Chorestecki as Louise Hoatley, Tim Blake Nelson as Carny Boss, Peter McNeill as Judge Kimball, Richard Jenkins as Ezra Grindle, and David Hewlett as Dr. Elrood.

Where the Alley Begins and Ends

Nightmare Alley begins with Stanton Carlisle leaving his old life to make a new life. He meets Zeena and her husband Peter shortly after getting a job at a carnival. He learns how to become a successful carnival act over a span of two years and finds himself catering to the elite in New York. Far away from sleeping on straw and warming up by the fire, Stan lives a comfortably and has forged a working relationship with Lilith Ritter that brings him even more fortune. The betrayal by others and greed of himself work together and ultimately causes him to face the truth although it’s too late for redemption.

Watch the Trailer

Overall Take of Nightmare Alley

When you see one carny movie, you’ve sort of seem them all. Nightmare Alley had the array of freaks and oddities one expects in a traveling carnival, but I wasn’t sure what to expect beyond this in terms of the story. The plot was gearing up for what did eventually happen and while I knew this would happen, I kept watching because the performances were great. The human desires are ones we’ve all heard before such as love, money, and fame but underneath some men can wear a suit and tie convincingly while others should’ve stuck to a white shirt and raggedy pants.

I give Nightmare Alley FOUR FINGERS at 90%

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