Reviewing Oscars 2022 Best Picture Nominees: ‘Nightmare Alley’

Photo courtesy of IMDb

By Clay Thompson | Reporter

When I first watched “Nightmare Alley,” which is currently streaming on Hulu, I immediately had to watch it again to make sure I understood everything I saw. This does not by any stretch of the imagination mean that the film is bad, however I had to watch it a second time just to grasp the full meaning of it.

Guillermo del Toro’s most recent film “Nightmare Alley” weaves an entertaining yet dark and disturbing story about an ambitious man who joins a carnival in the 1940s, but yearns for more in the world. However, not all of his decisions will come without consequences.

First, I have to give major props to the actors. Cate Blanchett in her role as Dr. Lilith Ritter gave what I can only describe as one of her career-best performances. The sultry yet noir-esque mannerisms and tone she breathes into the character had me hooked from the moment she was introduced.

Bradley Cooper should also be commended for his performance as the film’s main character, Stanton Carlisle. He takes an ambitious young man who joins the carnival to make something of himself and portrays his character development with a truly accurate and often dual nature, that leaves the audience questioning if they should root for him as the film goes on.

I also must give a shoutout to Rooney Mara for her portrayal of Molly Cahil, a woman from the carnival who gets caught up in the plot of the film. Her portrayal of an innocent young woman who wants to find love, but ultimately learns a valuable lesson about where to place that love, really added to the emotional and moral messages of the film itself.

Additionally, del Toro crafted a magnificent world in “Nightmare Alley.” The set design, lighting, editing and cinematography were all exceptional and truly added to the dark tone the film naturally sets up.

Finally, I was blown away by both the messages of the film as well as the ending. In regards to the film’s finale, without giving it away, it not only provides a shocking twist that I would have been more shocked by if I had not read the original novel by William Lindsey Gresham, but the ending after the twist provides a compelling and sadly satisfying final scene that will likely break viewers’ hearts.

However, the film itself as well as the ending, provided what I saw as a very poignant yet dark message for the film viewers. The American dream can take people to really bad places, and it is by our own choice, to choose to escape this dark fate, or risk being consumed by it.

Guillermo del Toro has created another wonderfully crafted and executed film. “Nightmare Alley” presents to viewers how dark the American dream can be. Through the wonderful set pieces, cinematography and above all, brilliant acting, the film tells an incredibly dark tale that more than qualifies it to be nominated for best picture.