Magic and illusions can be used for fun and joy, but sometimes they are used for darkness and deception. That is the case with director Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley.
Set in the 1940s, Nightmare Alleyintroduces us to Stan Carlisle, a carny played by Bradley Cooper, who joins a traveling carnival tour. Carlisle has the unique ability to control people with just a couple of words. He works for Clem Hoatley, played by Willem Dafoe, who oversees the operation, and also on the tour is Molly Cahill, played by Rooney Mara. Carlisle and Cahill team up to create their own show away from the carnival, but a psychiatrist, Dr. Lilith Ritter played by Cate Blanchett, enters the scene and complicates things.
Nightmare Alley brings us to a world of lies and deceit that is surreal and beguiling. Ritter is two-faced, and Carlisle is anxious to get wealthy. The use of manipulative power and illusions are taken to a masterful level. The film’s storyline does seem to drag a little at the beginning, but with close attention it all comes together to make the film even more enticing.
Nightmare Alley is brilliantly directed with a precise and fascinating plot. It is pure fantasy and treachery at its finest. The illusions will bring its viewers to a world well beyond predictability. Three and a half stars for Nightmare Alley.