Movie Review – ‘Nightmare Alley’ (2021)

Hello everyone! 🙂

Welcome to ‘Bradley’s Basement’ blog and I’m Tim Bradley!

(groans) ‘Nightmare Alley’. Here we go. I want to stress; I know this film has received a lot of positive reception in terms of critical acclaim. In fact, the film received four nominations at the recent Academy Awards, including Best Picture, though ‘CODA’ actually won the award – good for that film.

However, when it came out at cinemas, the film flopped at the box office. Having seen the film myself on Disney+, I can’t say this is a winner for me. For one thing, I struggled to understand what was going on in the film, even though the plot revolved around a carnival worker who took big risks.

‘Nightmare Alley’ was released in 2021 and is directed by Guillermo del Toro. I’ve come across Guillermo del Toro before, as he directed ‘The Shape of Water’, which I saw in 2018. He also directed films like ‘Blade II’ and the two ‘Hellboy’ films with Ron Perlman. I haven’t seen those yet. 😐

To be honest, I found ‘The Shape of Water’ easier to follow and enjoy compared to ‘Nightmare Alley’. This is a shame, as ‘Nightmare Alley’ features a stunning cast of actors who deliver amazing performances as their characters. But I felt unsatisfied after watching the film from start to finish. 😐

As I said, the film focuses on Bradley Cooper as Stan Carlisle, a charming and ambitious carnival worker. Bradley Cooper is well-known for voicing Rocket the Racoon in the ‘MCU’ film series. It was amazing and interesting to see Bradley Cooper in live-action as opposed to voicing a CGI character. 🙂

Stan Carlisle happens to have a mysterious past who takes big risks to boost his career. I must admit, I’m not entirely sure what Stan’s mysterious past is supposed to be, but I think it involves him killing his father. It also involves him burning his father’s house down after exposing him to hypothermia. 😐

Honestly, I found Stan quite an unlikeable character at times, especially when he was eventually beating up someone with more than one punch and he ran someone over in a car. Throughout, I struggled to connect with the film’s main character. I couldn’t sympathise with him from the get-go.

Apparently, Guillermo del Toro’s film adaptation of ‘Nightmare Alley’, based on the 1946 novel by William Lindsay Gresham, is the second one to be made. The first film adaptation was the 1947 version, starring Tyrone Power. I imagine the 1947 film version is superior than the 2021 film version.

The rest of the 2021 film’s cast includes Cate Blanchett as Lilith Ritter, who is a sort-of rival for Stan Carlisle’s character. Cate Blanchett played Galadriel in ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ film trilogies. I’ve also seen Cate Blanchett as the villainous Hela in the ‘MCU’ movie ‘Thor: Ragnarok’. 🙂

There’s Toni Collette as Zeena Krumbein, Willem Dafoe (Norman Osborn/the Green Goblin in the ‘Spider-Man’ films) as Clem Hoatley, Richard Jenkins as Ezra Grindle, Rooney Mara as Molly Cahill, Ron Perlman as Bruno and Mary Steenburgen (from ‘Back to the Future, Part III’) as Felicia Kimball. 🙂

There’s also David Strathairn as Pete Krumbein, Mark Povinelli as Major Mosquito, Peter MacNeill as Judge Charles Kimball, Holt McCallany as Anderson, Paul Anderson as the Geek, Lara Jean Chorostecki as Louise Hoatley, Jim Beaver as Sheriff Jedediah Judd, Clifton Collins Jr. as Funhouse Jack, Tim Blake Nelson as the Carny Boss, David Hewlet as Dr. Elrood, Dian Bacher as Fee Fee the Birdgirl and Stephen McHatti as a hobo. Romina Power, Tyrone Power’s daughter cameos in this film too.

There is a grisly scene where the Geek eats a chicken and blood spews out from its neck, which I found off-putting. The film concludes with Stan Carlisle ending up becoming a Geek, to which he snaps and breaks down laughing. Having the film end on that note was abrupt and so disappointing.

2021’s ‘Nightmare Alley’ is not a film I want to see again, even on Disney+. It was intriguing to check out one of the nominees for Best Picture at the recent Academy Awards on Disney+. I wish ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ was chosen for Best Picture instead, since I found that more enjoyable than ‘Nightmare Alley’.

My Dad enjoyed ‘Nightmare Alley’ though. Good for him. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Bye for now!

Tim 🙂


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