Nightmare Alley is an absolutely fantastic film. Del Toro, as well as the cast, comes together in a sensational fashion. A world where every movie is a superhero CGI whitewashed experience crafted for maximum profit is not one that I want to live in. It’s fast food for your brain, it’s not an experience. Films like this are that meal you ate while on vacation in that cafe with amazing designs on the walls, the unforgettable waiter and desert that you’ve never had before, or the one that you will never forget.
It is a beautifully shot, brilliantly acted, and well-written film with attention to every detail. The set design is perfect, and the setting for the story couldn’t have been presented better. The art and designs, the fashion, it’s all very film noir-ish, at least in some of the aesthetics. It explores the glamorous side as well as the gritty, dirty struggling to survive, working on a dollar a day, side extremely well.
This is more of a film for film geeks if that makes sense. There is plenty of foreshadowing, symbolism, metaphors, etc. If you are going into this expecting some kind of high-energy gangster film with shootouts and car chases you will be very much disappointed. This is a gritty, sometimes depressing movie that has you exploring childhood trauma and abandonment, and the issues that arise when those things aren’t dealt with and are allowed to control from the background.
The plot, the twists, and the resolutions are mostly predictable. But that is intentional. That isn’t really what this movie is about. It’s more of a traditional tragedy, where the trap has already been set for the characters, and the plot is watching the character uncover it.
Overall, Nightmare Alley is what cinema should be. It should shift your thinking. It should charge your emotions. That’s what differentiates a great film from a good one. And Nightmare Alley has everything of that. I highly recommend this film. It’s twisted and dark; each scene is more breathtaking than the one before. Nightmare Alley is basically a cinematic perfection.