Nightmare Alley (2021)
2h 20m / R / Crime Thriller
Visionary director Guillermo del Toro is following up The Shape of Water, his stirring tale of “what if The Creature from the Black Lagoon was The Notebook” which netted him Best Picture and Best Director Oscars (and still gets discussed around Tampa Theatre as one of our most paradoxically successful holiday-season films ever). And this time around he’s summoning up the coalblack atmosphere of Nightmare Alley, a fresh examination of a psychological noir-thriller first committed to celluloid in 1947. Say what you want about him, the guy knows how to make a charismatic, upsetting period piece.
In 1940s New York, down-on-his-luck Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born) endears himself to a clairvoyant and her mentalist husband at a traveling carnival. Using newly acquired knowledge, Carlisle crafts a golden ticket to success by swindling the elite and wealthy. Hoping for a big score, he soon hatches a scheme to con a dangerous tycoon with help from a mysterious psychiatrist (Cate Blanchett, Carol) who might be his most formidable opponent yet. Rounding out the A-list cast, Nightmare Alley also stars Rooney Mara, Willem Dafoe, and longtime del Toro collaborator, Ron Perlman.