Nightmare Alley New Movie Review Bradley Cooper

Movie Review 

Nightmare Alley is a beautifully crafted, atmospheric noir thriller. It is also very long. Now, before the legions of moviegoers sharpen their knives in anger, I'd like to preface this review by saying that I love long movies. But it takes its sweet time to get to the really good stuff. 

 This painstaking ride is aided by great set design and stellar acting, and Guillermo Del Toro's name alone will be enough to draw people into theaters. Considering the story we actually got for all that effort, I can't say the 2 hours and 20 minutes of running time made it all worth it. This cut 30 minutes off the work time and lost nothing.

Slow Pace

  The slow pace of Nightmare Alley begins by taking us back to 1941. A mysterious stranger attends the carnival. That stranger is Stan Carlyle, and he's trying to make a name for himself by holding on to a past full of sorrow and pain.

  After learning more about the carnival and the little secrets they hold, courtesy of slimy Clem, Stan becomes ambitious and sets his sights on greener pastures. Colleague Carny helped Molly see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

  Stan promises Molly the world and begins to learn the tricks of the trade, namely the art of tactful sightings of Zeena and her partner Pete.

  The next trick is a slow descent into a twisted world of misery and sorrow. As Stan starts to spiral out of control and the pieces of his life that have been so carefully assembled crack, he questions just who he trusts and whether he's taken his act too far.


 As far as dark thrillers go, Nightmare Alley certainly has its positives, and some of that can be attributed to the aforementioned aesthetic. With a $60 million budget, the production design here is absolutely fantastic.

  Whether it's the carnival itself, complete with all the frenzied sideshow action and little graphic details, or Dr. Ritter's unnerving yet elegantly designed office, you can tell that Nightmare Alley has gone out of its way to make it a visual treat.

  And it's also because you'll have to review the visuals for a good portion of the runtime. Glacial speed is a big obstacle here and in my cinema, two people out and another checking the time every now and then. 

 When this movie puts you to sleep, it suddenly turns into a crazy final act that is ironically over.


  The twists leading up to the final act are well-written and designed to be quite shocking, with some nice foreshadowing early on. The problem is, anyone remotely familiar with psychological thrillers like this will spot the twists and turns a mile off.

  The final scene (which I won't spoil here) is the biggest culprit because of the timing and emphasis on this point early in the film.


Bradley Cooper 

A lot of Nightmare Alley's appeal comes from its cast, and Bradley Cooper in particular. He's the real show-stopper here, and his portrayal of Stan Carlyle hits all the right buttons when it comes to his various emotions. Along with Cate Blanchett, the pair have a sizzling on-screen chemistry that can really be felt in the later moments.

  One of the more underrated elements of this film that deserves more praise than it gets is the musical score. Composed by Nathan Johnson, this is easily one of the greatest highlights. The haunting string segments, along with the minor key piano, add serious chill to the film's long-repeated main motif.

Thematically, Guillermo Del Toro has always had a knack for making movies with deeper meanings, and Nightmare Alley is no exception. The ideas of grief, trauma, desire, and "seeing" one's true purpose are all explored here, but they all feel pretty superficial rather than themes that deserve further exploration. Even so, they handled the story really well.

  Nightmare Alley's inflated runtime, simplistic story, and contrived ending make it a bit of a tough sell — especially at nearly 2 and a half hours. This noir thriller could have been great, and with tighter editing - especially during the slow burn - it could have been a powerful psychological thriller.

  Great acting and a beautiful aesthetic are enough to make this a watch, but Ghost Alley is unlikely to be a fair you'll rush back to – nor does this reviewer recommend rushing to the cinema any time soon.

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