Nightmare Alley

Look up the original definition of “geek”

Edmond Goulding’s unsettling 1947 film starring Tyrone Power about the rise and fall of a manipulative carnival mentalist is seen as a prime example of the noir genre. Few would even attempt a remake – until Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Shape of Water) came along. If anything, this hypnotic three-ring circus is thoroughly darker.

Bradley Cooper displays his acting chops in the central role of Stanton Carlisle, a bottom-level carny grunt who observes the various deceptions that make up the show, learns rapidly, moves up the ladder and eventually breaks off to pursue more lucrative targets as a solo act. But grifters are never satisfied, and soon he has aligned himself with an amoral (and smarter) female psychiatrist (Cate Blanchett) who can set him up with more deep-pocketed marks. 

The impressive, A-list cast includes Willem Dafoe, Toni Collette, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen and David Strathairn. (150 min)