I’ve always been very interested by noir style thrillers and dramas. The combination of classic style and deceptive mystery is very entertaining and mesmerizing. Nightmare Alley has the feel of a classic mystery thriller, but with better visuals. The script takes its time to introduce us to all these different characters and build up the story properly. Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, and the rest of this ensemble cast all do a fine job and the script provides them with a smart narrative that’s engaging. And on top of all that, the costume design, hair/makeup, and set design is all absolutely stunning.
This cast is stacked with seasoned professionals that know how to handle their roles. Cate Blanchett is undoubtedly the most memorable. She gives a mysterious performance as a mesmerizing femme fatale who has more up her sleeve than one may think. Blanchett’s presence makes this film so much more impactful.
Bradley Cooper plays the lead who’s a conman that gets in over his head trying to become a success. Cooper does a fine job portraying a truly lost man who’s pride leads him astray. His performance gets better and more interesting as the film progresses. Toni Collette also does a very nice job. I’m always happy to see Collette in anything because of her ability to play such varied roles.
I was very surprised and pleased to see Mary Steenburgen play a small role here. Her character is shocking and ends up being disturbing and Steenburgen does a great job driving all of that home. All of these fine actors are wrapped up in stunning garments too, Blanchett being the most dazzling. The dress that she wears when we first see her character is beautiful and fits her well. Plus there’s many classic elegant accessories she touts such as a sparkly clutch and striking jewelry.
And I couldn’t get enough of her near perfect makeup. The style of makeup she wears compliments her face very well and her glossy lipstick fits so well. Just when I thought her look couldn’t be more spot on she closed her eyes and I saw the sparkling eye shadow! The makeup people that worked on this film deserve much praise!
Not only are the actors dressed well, so are the sets. The old school set design really lures you in. My favorite set piece has to be Blanchett’s characters office. Her office has these beautiful glossy wood walls that have a high end look to them and fits her character well. There’s plenty of period specific amenities too that help to immerse you into the setting.
The script, the crown jewel and beating heart of every project, is very well written. I like that there’s time taken to let these characters breathe and grow. The mystery and thrills are clever and well thought out, especially between Cooper and Blanchett. The way in which their connection ends up has you backtracking and thinking about just how it was done, which is fun and satisfying.
The script also does a really great job of planting things early on that end up coming full circle in a really interesting way. The final scene has a cool “ohh” moment with Bradley Cooper’s character that I loved. There are very few things here that aren’t great but I will say that Rooney Mara isn’t used very well. She’s much better in films like Carol and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. There’s also one shot in particular that I thought was a little jarringly graphic and out of touch with the films overall style.
Nightmare Alley is a very well acted noir thriller that also touts a smart script and spot on costume design/makeup.
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