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‘Nightmare Alley’ First Reactions Commend Guillermo del Toro Noir’s ‘Breathtaking’ Production Design, Bradley Cooper’s ‘Career-Best Performance’

©Searchlight Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection

The first reactions to Searchlight Pictures’ “Nightmare Alley” are thundering in following the film’s global premiere in New York City on Wednesday evening. Film critics and entertainment writers who attended the high-profile screening took to social media, praising Guillermo del Toro’s follow-up to his 2017 best picture winner “The Shape of Water.”

Based on William Lindsay Gresham’s 1946 novel of the same name, “Nightmare Alley” stars Bradley Cooper as Stan Carlisle, an ambitious carnival entertainer with a knack for manipulating people with a few select phrases. Carlisle’s abilities and showmanship launch him into the upper classes of society, where he encounters Cate Blanchett’s Dr. Lilith Ritter, a suspect and highly dangerous psychiatrist.

“Nightmare Alley” sports a star-studded cast, including Willem Dafoe, Toni Collette, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Holt McCallany, Tim Blake Nelson, Mary Steenburgen, David Strathairn, Clifton Collins Jr. and frequent del Toro collaborator Ron Perlman. The film is set to hit theaters on Dec. 17.

Variety’s own executive editor Ramin Setoodeh’s immediate reaction featured high praise for Cooper’s lead performance, declaring a belief that the actor will earn a fifth Oscar nomination for his performance.

Variety awards editor Clayton Davis also praised Cooper, along with del Toro’s direction. He also declared that the year’s production design Oscar race essentially has a bow on it at this point. Read his complete initial takeaways here.


Variety senior artisans editor Jazz Tangcay called the movie “all around brilliance.”

Film critic Robert Daniels was much less favorable, calling the look of the film “so murky” that he had trouble making out actors’ faces.

Fandango’s Erik Davis highlighted the scenes between Cooper and Blanchett as particularly impressive.

Yahoo Entertainment correspondent Kevin Polowy also extended praise to Blanchett, stating that the actress “steals it as always.”

See more reactions below: