Directed by Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water; Crimson Peak; Pan's Labyrinth; Hellboy; The Devil's Backbone) and starring Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook; A Star Is Born; Licorice Pizza; Joker; American Hustle; The Hangover; American Sniper; The Place Beyond the Pines), Rooney Mara (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; Carol; The Social Network; The Secret Scripture; Ain't Them Bodies Saints; A Nightmare on Elm Street), Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense; Little Miss Sunshine; About a Boy; Dream Horse; Knives Out; Hector and the Search for Happiness), Willem Dafoe (Shadow of the Vampire; The Florida Project; Platoon; Spider-Man; The Lighthouse; The French Dispatch; Murder on the Orient Express; The Grand Budapest Hotel; John Wick) and Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth: The Golden Age; Blue Jasmine; The Aviator; Don't Look Up; Ocean's Eight; The Monuments Men; The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey; The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull).

Psychological drama; 150 mins; 16+

Set in the 1930s, it follows Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) who leaves home following his father's death and stumbles across a travelling carnival which is full of characters. He is offered a job by Clem Hoatley (Willem Dafoe) who runs the collection of freak show exhibits and other acts, including a "wild man" ("is he man, is he beast, you decide") who is kept in a cage in inhumane conditions just to "perform" for paying clients. He becomes part of the fabric of the carnival and his life seems to get back on track.

Stanton is drawn to Zeena (Toni Collette) and her alcoholic husband who used to run a mentalism con, and he starts to learn their former trade, picking it up quickly and hearing their warning not to use it to run "spook shows", i.e. conjuring up the spirits of the deceased. Meanwhile, he falls for Molly Cahill (Rooney Mara), another performer at the carnival; they eventually leave the carnival for the city and a couple of years later they reinvent the mentalism act and perform, apparently successfully, as a resident act at a glamorous art deco hotel for a high-society audience, a far cry from the tarry carnival they left behind, or at least thought that they did.

One evening, a female psychiatrist, glamorous Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett) appears on the scene and the audience is left wondering who is tricking / deceiving / playing / manipulating whom? Through her, he starts to taken on private clients, helping them to reach their loved ones "beyond the grave", but in reality seeing them as a path to wealth: this strains his relationship with Molly and brings him closer to Lilith, setting a dangerous chain of events into motion.

Based on the 1946 book of the same name and compared to the original 1947 black and white film by Edmund Goulding and starring Tyrone Power as Stanton Carlisle, this 2022 remake is much more of an American Noir. The current offering does not focus on his alcoholism until towards the closing scenes, although there are enough hints dropped throughout; also, here he is much less sinister. It does, however, paint a picture of a man who has a dark past and who has drifted into the "carny" scene and lifestyle, but who is prepared to work to improve himself, using stylish visuals and painting a brooding atmosphere. But his qualities and attributes from his former life don't go away and float to the surface, putting his life on the line. But will he survive? And if so, at what cost?

The storyline is as gripping as it was when the original film premiered almost 75 years ago; with this new interpretation, it delves deeper in to the protagonist's psyche, with the closing scenes illustrating how his mind has been shattered, not unlike some aspects of the ending to Shutter Island in which the audience is left questioning which story has been reality. Here, though, the storyline is understandable: what evolves, though, is the mind of protagonist and the unimaginable choice with which he is faced towards the end and his tragic demise.

Screening at Kinepolis in Luxembourg from Wednesday 19 January 2022.