Starring Rooney Mara, Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Mary Steenburgen. Toni Collette, Ron Perlman, Tim Blake Nelson, Richard Jenkins, David Strathairn
Normally, Oscar-winning Director Guillermo del Toro would release something like “The Shape of Water,” “Pan’s Labyrinth” or even “Hellboy” during October, but his star-studded remake of “Nightmare Alley” has its eyes on prestige.
For del Toro fans, his latest “Nightmare Alley” doesn’t include as much disturbing content, gore or monsters featured in previous films like “Crimson Peak” or “Pacific Rim.” Not that his version of the 1947 film isn’t without bloody moments — “Nightmare Alley” is two movies in one.
The first half is a roadside carnival show with colorful characters played by everyone from Toni Collette, Ron Perlman and Willem Dafoe. Bradley Cooper is Stanton Carlisle, the new guy, with hidden talents that help revitalize this Midwestern carnivals’ predictable and outdated gimmicks.
He falls for carnie performer Molly Cahill (Rooney Mara), and his ambitions lead them elsewhere. Cooper is trying on an extremely different hat in this role, and it’s one of his best performances. He, along with Collette and Cate Blanchett, are the standouts in this art deco film noir.
Even more impressive than the acting is del Toro’s quality of production design. Intricate set designs, in the carnival sequences and office buildings, are stunningly captured by Oscar-nominated “Shape of Water” cinematographer Dan Laustsen.
It’s a long, but well-paced ride into manipulation and darkness, but the impressiveness is in the artistry more than story.