BrayMitch01’s review published on Letterboxd:
2021 Movies List- Click HERE
Nightmare Alley is a decent movie. Months ago I wouldn’t have believed you if you’d told me I’d be watching one of my most anticipated films of 2021 on Hulu almost seven weeks after it released in theaters but here I am finally writing a review for a film that I, for a majority of last year, couldn’t wait to see especially on the big screen. With it’s mixed reviews resulting in a large loss of momentum in the awards race for this former frontrunner for Best Picture and the busyness of the week it came out I missed seeing it but fortunately for those like me who missed Guillermo del Toro’s newest film it arrived to streaming earlier than it usually would have. Now I can’t properly compare this film to others from del Toro’s filmography because besides this one I’ve only seen The Shape of Water but I can at least tell this film doesn’t amount to being one of his best. My opinions on this film are pretty conflicting as it’s strengths such as the beautiful cinematography and incredible production value are very strong but it’s faults are pretty weak, weighing down slightly from the more positive score I was tempted to give it. A thought that was consistently in the back of my mind while watching this film was how it used to be such a large Oscar contender back in the earliest stages of the race with basically everyone setting it as the Best Picture and Best Director front runner and how in just the course of a night it felt like lost all of it’s steam never to seriously be considered in the Best Picture race ever again. It’ll still show up in a few categories at the Oscars but it’s vividly not going to be the big contender it was once set to be, this film in my eyes has taken this year’s annual spot as the film that was built up to be a huge awards contender but failed at that. Nonetheless this film still has enough to offer that I would recommend it to those considering watching because it’s absolutely a film everyone will have a distinctly differing opinion on.
The plot is decent it’s an atmospheric but frequently lacking story. The story presents a familiar tale of deception and ambition as the question of man or beast is empathized throughout the film. As a slice of the Great Depression era is pulled down to be the backdrop we watch as our main character goes down a rabbit hole in which the outcome is unpredictable despite being expected. The dangers of giving false hope to the desperate and acting with overly self confidence are reminded to be lurking around every corner and even though those hesitant, effectively uncomfortable feelings aren’t consistently conveyed when they’re there it’s somewhat impacting.
When it comes to character relationships not many standout except the one between Stan and Pete which was pretty engaging. There’s a number of big flaws with the story the biggest ones being that there should have been much more focus on the supporting characters and their arcs especially that of Molly’s which was criminally underused. Even our main character Stan had a really inconsistent character arc as well. Sometimes random plot points are started but never completed which bugged me a bit too. The pacing is decent the first act and last thirty minutes are engrossing but the whole second act really drags.
The acting is very good Bradley Cooper gives a very good performance. His performance works well for the entire film but the way he acted in those last thirty minutes especially the ending scene makes his performance worthwhile. Cate Blanchett gives a good supporting performances but unlike what a majority of reviews say I don’t think her performance was the best out of the film. Rooney Mara, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Ron Perlman, Toni Collette, and David Strathairn give good supporting performances as well. It’s a fantastic cast full of talent but unfortunately only a few actually stick out.
The direction is very good Guillermo del Toro, sure a handful of his decisions didn’t work to the best of their ability but the distinct atmospheric style and control of the film’s technical hand he showcases further proves he deserves the reputation of one of our time’s most visionary fantasy/thriller directors. The script is okay there’s some smart pieces of dialogue here and there but for the most part it’s faults held it back from reaching the potential of a clever screenplay which it unawarely taunts.
The cinematography is phenomenal this film is filled to the brim with engraving shots that brilliantly utilize lighting and execute the art of camera movement impressively. From the first frame of the film to the very last, every shot is fueled with dedication in process displaying some of the best photographic work in film of 2021. I’ve mentioned this in past reviews but 2021 has to go in history for being one of the best year’s for cinematography in film with this film certainly being a highlight. The production and costume design are outstandingly detailed and fitting to the time period. The visual effects, sound, and editing are as expected quality technical aspects too. In terms of the Oscars as I talked about briefly earlier this film is obviously not the massive Oscar frontrunner it was once expected to be but I still think it has a shot to get a Best Production Design and Best Costume Design. I have a sneaking suspicion in the back of my mind that the same situation that happened at the ASC will repeat with this film making a very surprisingly appearance come Oscar nomination morning and you know what I think I’m confident enough to put that on my predictions. The ending is a haunting outcome that acts as an unexpected conclusion to foreshadowing set in the first few scenes of the film. Overall Nightmare Alley is a film that strongly boasts some very impressive aspects and at the right times works really well but also it’s clearly no secret that it could have been much better.