Guillermo del Toro is back with a new film, and it's unlike anything he's ever directed before. "Nightmare Alley" is his first stab at film noir, and this story of a mentalist who yearns to escape from the carnival lifestyle does not center on the brilliantly designed creatures del Toro frequently includes in his movies. And if this version is anything like the 1947 version of "Nightmare Alley" that starred "The Mark of Zorro" actor Tyrone Power, this could be one of del Toro's darkest films in quite some time. Check out the new trailer below.
Nightmare Alley Trailer
Eddie Mueller, who hosts Noir Alley on Turner Classic Movies, once said this about "Nightmare Alley":
"Of all the films of the classic era that can be called noir, 'Nightmare Alley' is perhaps the most prescient in its depiction of charismatic con men duping gullible folks simply by telling them what they want to hear – and picking their pocket as part of the exchange."
Viewed through that lens, this story (which was originally published in 1946 as a book by William Lindsey Gresham) feels incredibly timely. In the wake of this country's previous presidential administration, which assaulted the concept of truth at every possible opportunity, it's no wonder that del Toro would want to do a hard pivot away from the hope and romance of "The Shape of Water" into decidedly bleaker territory. Despite the fact that this film's biggest monster is a human being, the aesthetics of this movie still feel very much like a visual milieu del Toro is comfortable exploring on film.
I'm also not surprised that Bradley Cooper would want to play against type and take on a role like Stan Carlisle, since that's exactly what Tyrone Power did when he starred in the 1947 original. Power, who was best known for his swashbuckling action films and romances, was desperate to push himself as a performer and play a morally dubious character instead of a slick-grinned hero. Cooper's past five or so years on film have been a little shaky outside of "A Star is Born" and his multiple Marvel voiceover gigs (remember "War Dogs"?), so it's easy to see why he would embrace the challenge of playing an unlikeable huckster.
And it's not just Cooper in the spotlight here: he's joined by an absolutely incredible ensemble that rivals any other film of 2021. Cate Blanchett plays a doctor who tries to prove Stan is a charlatan; Rooney Mara plays Stan's girlfriend and assistant, whom del Toro called "the moral center" of the movie; Willem Dafoe plays an unsavory carnival owner; Ron Perlman plays a hulking carnival worker; Toni Collette plays a carnival mentalist who has worked out an important code with her drunken husband, played by David Straithairn; and the list goes on. Richard Jenkins, Holt McCallany, Clifton Collins Jr., Tim Blake Nelson, and Jim Beaver round out the stellar cast. If you're playing Character Actor Bingo, this movie should essentially fill your entire card.
"Nightmare Alley" is slated to hit theaters on December 3, 2021.
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