Review Fair of Illusions – Nightmare Alley: the beauty of the circus of horrors

Here is our review of The Fair of Illusions – Nightmare Alley, the latest film by Guillermo del Toro with Bradley Cooper and Cate Blanchett

ORIGINAL TITLE: Nightmare Alley. GENDER: noir, thriller, dramatic. COUNTRY: USA, Mexico. DIRECTOR: Guillermo del Toro. CAST: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blachett, Willem Dafoe, Toni Collette, Rooney Mara, Richard Jenkins, Ron Perlman, David Strathaim. time: 150 minutes. PRODUCTION: Double Dare You, Searchlight Pictures. ITALIAN DISTRIBUTION: Searchlight Pictures. EXIT: January 27, 2022.

The unique style and taste of William of the Bull finds a new form within his latest feature film. The Fair of Illusions – Nightmare Alley it can be seen as a return to the origins of the Mexican director, while for the less attentive it will be yet another attempt to explore new frontiers by the award-winning director of The Shape of Water. In both cases, this film represents the main reason to go to the cinema starting from the end of January, together with Ennio’s first visions. Let’s dive into the review of The Fair of Illusions – Nightmare Alley!

The plot | Review Fair of Illusions – Nightmare Alley

Midwest, 1939. The protagonist is theenigmatic Stanton “Stan” Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) who, after setting fire to a country house, meets Clem (Willem Dafoe) and his circus. Here it helps the manager to find theman-beast, one of the main attractions, escaped in the night. Once found, Clem hires Stan to join the circus crew. The protagonist is in the service of clairvoyant Zeena (Toni Collette) and her drunk husband Pete (David Strathaim). The two are very adept at communicating via coded language to make the public believe that she possesses extraordinary mental powers. Stan, impressed by their abilities, asks Pete to teach him the techniques of this language, so that he can use them for his own purposes. The Fair of Illusions – Nightmare Alley is the second transposition ofnovel of the same name, after 1947 film at Edmund Goulding.

A linear story | Review Fair of Illusions – Nightmare Alley

What is perhaps less surprising about this film is perhaps the history in itself. From a certain point forward i twists, although they are potentially always around the corner, they can no longer break through. The plot follows the course it must have and is difficult to be surprised. This does not mean, however, that we are dealing with a banal film. The twists and turns we see Stan’s story take over the course of the story are well thought-out, shaping his character flawlessly. The protagonist makes an infinite journey at the same time, remaining in part always motionless. Bradley Cooper’s excellently portrayed character goes from being a tormented man, forced to fight and get his hands dirty, to being surrounded by success and apparent happiness, only to fall victim to his own demons. The narrative arc is clear from the beginning and del Toro did a great job letting us know from the first few scenes how the film could have ended.

Two worlds that touch each other | Review Fair of Illusions – Nightmare Alley

Looking at the trailers and promotional material, we could have bet that the main location of The Fair of Illusions – Nightmare Alley would have been The circus by Clem. In part it is, in the sense that much of the film is set there. From the middle onwards though, it it almost completely disappears from the scene, leaving room for the splendor and elegance of the clubs and the city. Likewise, the festivity of the circus gives way to the cold environment of the buildings. The characters also change with the change of locations: the undertone of horror and thriller that remains behind the scenes in the first half of the film in fact emerges all of a sudden. The hitherto idyllic relationship between Stan and Molly begins to crumble, while the most corruptible part of the protagonist finds a safe landing in the figure of the psychologist Lilith Ritter. The plot begins to thicken with mystery and dangers, as we delve into the minds of its protagonists. The bright circus setting is just a distant memory and this nostalgia is especially manifested in Molly, who as well as the Stan’s ‘good’ side, is almost completely shelved in the second half of the film. In its place temptress Lilith emerges, which draws Stan towards him, torn between these two worlds that touch. We, through his eyes, experience firsthand all his doubts and contradictions, thanks to a very solid script and superb performances by the protagonists.

Review Fair of Illusions - Nightmare Alley: the beauty of the circus of horrors


Fair of Illusions – Nightmare Alley is a movie very solid. His is film script which, despite often trying to surprise and with very little success, gives us a second half of an incredible film. To underline is the performance by Bradley Cooper as Stan, literally kissed by a phenomenal story arc, and Cate Blanchett as Lilith Ritter, icy in dialogue and stage presence. La scenography the circus remains one of the strong points of the film, confirming the more ‘deltorian’ side of the work, that is that taste for the bizarre and the fairytale, reinterpreted with the usual noir lens that distinguishes it. Perhaps the only obvious flaw is the minutes, decidedly high for the plot that is told. Even this aspect, which can be a weak point, is functional to the branching of all the subplots and all the references that only when the film is finished will make us exclaim ‘Ah, that’s why!’. Fair of Illusions – Nightmare Alley is one of the most compelling films of recent months and one of the top nominees for the major awards in the coming months, so better check it out to tell all the skeptics: “I told you!”

What do you think of this film? Have you yet to see it in the room? Do you agree with our review of The Fair of Illusions – Nightmare Alley? Let us know in the comments!

Points in favor

  • The solidity of the plot
  • The performance of the cast
  • The sets

Points against

  • Predictable twists and turns
  • High playing time

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