‘Nightmare Alley’s First Images Reveal an Ultra-Cool Noir Movie From Guillermo del Toro Starring Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, & Bradley Cooper

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Four years after Guillermo del Toro‘s big win at the Academy Award, the acclaimed director is sure to return for another golden statue with his next film, Nightmare Alley. The first images from Searchlight Pictures tease a beautiful, noir thriller with a stacked cast that is sure to appeal to Oscar voters come awards season. Just take a look at those stunning costumes and iconic 40s waves and tell me that those categories aren’t already locked.

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While the film and photos are shot in color, Nightmare Alley is a clear homage to the golden age of noir thrillers. The film is based on the 1946 novel of the same name by William Lindsay Gresham, and is the second adaptation after the 1947 version, which is regarded as a classic example of the genre. The plot follows Stan Carlisle, a manipulative carny who joins forces with Dr. Lilith Ritter, a psychiatrist that’s sure to be the film’s femme fatale. Bradley Cooper will play Stan with Cate Blanchett playing Dr. Ritter opposite him.

Rounding out the rest of the incredible ensemble cast are Willem Dafoe, Toni Collette, Tim Blake Nelson, Mary Steenburgen, and David Strathairn. Del Toro favorites Richard Jenkins and Ron Perlman also have supporting roles, and Nightmare Alley will finally reunite Rooney Mara and Blanchett after 2015’s Carol. Mara will play a carnival worker named Molly, Dafoe stars the show’s head barker Clem, Perlman will play Bruno the strongman and Jenkins is a wealthy industrialist named Ezra Grindle.

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Image via Searchlight

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Everything in the first look photos showcases Del Toro’s unmistakable talent. These images are an aesthetic treat, offering a glimpse into 40s glamour amid lush sets and costuming. And while this may be one feature that doesn’t include any fantasy elements, Del Toro’s typically gorgeous visual flair is on display here. It’s obvious that Del Toro has a clear respect for the noir genre, offering up plenty of visual markers like curtained windows, canted angles, and low-key lighting.

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It will be fascinating to see how Del Toro updates the story and film for a more modern audience. For example, unlike the noir films of the 40s, Nightmare Alley received a hard R-rating for “strong/bloody violence, some sexual content, nudity, and language.” R-ratings are pretty standard for Del Toro, but this is a far cry from the Hays Code of Old Hollywood, which had to dance around violence and nudity with not-so-subtle metaphors and euphemisms. The merging of these two dynamic styles certainly makes the film unmissable.

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Nightmare Alley will premiere in theaters on December 17. Check out more first look photos below:

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Image via Searchlight

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Image via Searchlight

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Image via Searchlight

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Image via Searchlight

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Image via Searchlight

KEEP READING: Guillermo del Toro Explains How the Pandemic Changed ‘Nightmare Alley’: “I Will Never Shoot a Movie the Same Way”

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