Stanton Carlisle is a drifter with a talent for theatrics and hustling people out of their money. He lands a job at a carnival where he learns the essentials of mentalism from a pair of masters of the art. He also meets the love of his life and the two of them leave the carnival to take his act on the road.
Then he meets a psychologist who sees through his façade. Cate Blanchett's performance as the psychologist is outstanding and the production design one of the most stunning that you'll ever see; it certainly earned its Academy Award nomination.
Cooper gives a multi-dimensional performance that helps carry the film and he gets plenty of help; this film noir boasts a formidable acting line-up (Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara, Mary Steenburgen, Ron Perlman, Richard Jenkins), stunning period detail and is handsomely shot. Underrated on its release, Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece needs another viewing to appreciate its richness.