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Nightmare Alley

I went into this under the impression it was a horror, maybe just because of the title and that it’s a Guillermo Del Toro film, but the cynic in me says it was deliberately marketed that way. I spent the first half an hour or so waiting for something huge and terrifying to happen, and it never did. Once I realised the film wasn’t going down that route, it all clicked and became a really intriguing film.  

The most interesting thing about this is the atmosphere of it all, there’s a kind of cartoonish campiness to it which absolutely works with the narrative content. The central character is a very ordinary person who’s willing to work very hard to gain recognition and notoriety, regardless of how unethical the means towards those ends are. It’s all just pure cause and effect, beginning with that simple characteristic, which goes bigger and bigger until it becomes quite an uncomfortable moral warning. 

A common criticism seems to be that it’s too long, but I’m not sure where that’s coming from. It’s slow for sure, but I wouldn’t say it was badly paced. You could perhaps argue that the characters could be stronger outside of the protagonist, but equally I think even that adds to quite a deliberate feeling of self-centredness to the whole thing. It’s a film that will reward you with a lot of escapism if you’re willing to go along and let it.

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