Guillermo del Toro is a terrific filmmaker, but Nightmare Alley is ultimately disappointing. It starts off well with a grifter (Bradley Cooper) who joins a traveling carnival in the 1940s. Here, he learns a mentalist act that he uses to independently become a successful psychic. Then he meets a psychiatrist (Cate Blanchet) who is out to expose him as a fraud. The atmosphere is a mix between a dreamlike David Lynch movie and a film noir. The cinematography and production design are obviously top notch and so is the cast. Where it goes wrong is the screenplay that Del Toro wrote with Kim Morgan based on a novel by William Lindsay. All the time (150 minutes!), you are waiting for a big reveal, but it never comes. This type of noir storytelling has programmed our brains to already know for certain that the main character is doomed, but how it eventually comes to pass in this movie is predictable and unsatisfying. Alas, Nightmare Alley may be a visual treat, but in terms of storytelling it fails to move the viewer.
Nightmare Alley is now available on Disney Plus
The verdict: to stream or not to stream? Not to stream