From a rain-soaked carnival midway to a glossy, Art Deco therapist’s office, everything in Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley looks gorgeous. There just doesn’t seem to be a lot going on under the art direction.
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A wickedly enjoyable tale of freak shows, dark and stormy nights, innocent dames, morally bankrupt schemers, and a femme fatale to die for.
It may not have the sharp edges of a classic ’40s noir, but del Toro’s softer touch invites us in like one of Stan’s credulous marks.
This sordid excavation into the hollowness of a human soul is a strange fit for a director who’s spent his career searching for magic in the darkest margins of our world, but del Toro’s natural empathy for even the most damnable creatures he finds there sparks new life into “Nightmare Alley” as it narrows towards its inevitable dead end.
Nightmare Alley is both a beautiful-looking film and an oddly forgettable one, maybe because borrowed material is no match for the ingenious creations of del Toro's own mind.
Bloated at nearly 140 minutes with Cooper clearly miscast in the lead, it struggles to maintain urgency. Dreary and overly saturated with a CGI patina, this new take on Nightmare Alley adds more gore and f-bombs to the source material but ultimately remains emotionally inert and unclear exactly what it wants to say about these characters and the world they inhabit.
A gorgeous, fantastically sinister moral fable about the cruel predictability of human nature and the way entire systems — from carnies and con men to shrinks and Sunday preachers — are engineered to exploit it.
Stunningly-detailed, with an A-list cast up and down the line, it’s a gorgeous and gloomy dip into the dark side, immersive and bleak from start to finish.
With a semi-playful nod to the 1945 film Detour and more than a few rain-drenched streets, Nightmare Alley pays tribute to noir. But it’s also its own dark snow globe, luminous and finely faceted, and one of del Toro’s most fluent features.
The period details are impeccable, the look and feel are seductive, but the muddled script lacks the killer instinct of its central figures.