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Nightmare Alley

Guillermo del Toro’s latest stars Bradley Cooper as Stanton, a drifter who finds his way into the circus and learns the craft of mindreading. Once he perfects his craft, he runs away with Molly (Rooney Mara), and the two of them start a traveling mind-reading business. Stanton meets Doctor Ritter (Cate Blanchett), and the two of them set in motion a scheme that will alter the course of Stanton’s life. I am a fan of del Toro’s filmmaking style; he has a perfect command of direction, and the cinematography of his movies is always stunning. This film is no exception. I love the close-up shots and the gorgeous coloring, and the constant theme of night and darkness giving it the feel of a film-noir. I did not see the original nor did I read the book, so I had no preconceived notions. While I enjoyed the story, I did find the film to be too long. There were essentially two parts: the first when he was gaining mastery of his craft in the circus and the second when he met Dr. Ritter. The second part of the story is much more intriguing, and the movie (for me) didn’t really get exciting until Cate Blanchett appeared. I think the first part of the movie could have been pared back quite a bit with more focus on the second half. Blanchette is stunning; the camera angles and lighting give her an air of mystery and seductiveness; del Toro must have had fun filming her. Cooper and Blanchette give solid performances. Overall, I found the film entertaining and a visual treat. (2021; 4 Stars)

About Gary Burkholder

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