Hey viewers! This week we’ll be taking a look at Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut, Nightcrawler. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, and Bill Paxton, Nightcrawler is rated R for graphic images and explicit language.
In Nightcrawler, a thriller set in contemporary Los Angeles, Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is a calculated sociopath who is desperate for work. Bloom delves into the world of crime journalism, muscling into the dangerous, sketchy realm of nightcrawling. Striving to be the best at his work, every victim of a cold crime becomes nothing more than money to him. Caught up in the moment, Lou transcends the line between right and wrong, foregoing all morals to be the best in his business.
8.5 out of 10
At first glance, I thought this movie was about the X-Men character and my initial reaction was something along the lines of “Oh s**t, another superhero movie I have to see?”. But then I watched the trailer. And I was excited. And then I saw the movie. And I really enjoyed it.
First, let me establish something; everything great about this movie comes from Jake Gyllenhaal. He is the rock of this film. If he had delivered a weak performance, then this movie would have flopped. There were no other big name actors, so it was up to Gyllenhaal to deliver. Without him, Nightcrawler would have failed critically and in the box office. God Bless him.
Gyllenhaal plays a man named Louis Bloom, a hard working yet cold, calculated man desperate for a job. Everything about Gyllenhaal’s performance is stunning; his desperation, his utter lack of humanity, and even his figure– he lost 30 pounds for this role and it definitely helped with giving his character the sliminess that made him so sketchy.
There is no development of his character. There is no substantial transformation where Bloom realizes that he’s been doing everything wrong and changes his ways, and this is what makes the film so great. I guess I’m spoiling a bit, but there are no repercussions for his actions. Not only does he cross the line between right and wrong, but he completely demolishes it. At the end of the film, I was convinced that there are real people like Bloom. A plot that could have felt surreal came off as incredibly realistic thanks to imperfections of Gyllenhaal’s character. He wasn’t empathetic or even sympathetic for that matter, he was just evil. Gyllenhaal produced a character who was truly insane.
Dan Gilroy did a very good job in his directorial debut as well, utilizing various techniques that enhanced his film. One thing that stood out to me was his use of light, which subtly provided the movie with its tone. The opening sequence of the film established the city of Los Angeles; the nice parts were lit up by natural light and the bad parts were lit up artificially, by streetlights. The complete lack of light was relevant too, since most of the movie took place at night (hence the title, Nightcrawler). On other occasions, the only light is coming from the his camera, something I thought was really cool. In that situation, the only things you could see were his face or what he was filming, providing the impression that his train of thought circulated around the image he was filming rather than the situation he was in.
All of this equates to an exciting, intense story that hardly relents. The movie is intriguing from the opening scene, in which Louis essentially beats a man for money to the closing scene, where he drives off into the Los Angeles night, glowing with chaos and terror. While there are points that drag and the pacing does get off at points, almost every scene is meaningful for one thing or another, whether it furthers the plot or gives us another glimpse of Bloom’s insanity.
I do think that the movie could have taken itself a little less seriously at points. While the grittiness and grotesqueness kept it interesting, I felt like moments of humor were left to be desired There is a bit of comedy in Louis’ character himself, simply due to the utter bizarreness of his character, but it’s never intentional and the moment never lasts. Nightcrawler doesn’t have the same feel as a straight-up drama, where two hours of seriousness can play. Instead, it trends towards being very one-sided, saturated with darkness and grit. The incorporation of a comedic flair would have given it a dimension that would have made the film even greater. A bit of black comedy would have been really cool.
Ultimately, in the big picture, Nightcrawler is a pretty good movie in a year of really good movies, sadly enough. Though I hope it gets nominated for Best Picture, I doubt it will. Gyllenhaal has a shot at a Best Actor nomination, but again, there are quite a few stellar performances this year. Overall, Nightcrawler is interesting and compelling, but lacks the necessary diversity in tone and flair that would have put it over the top.
9.0 out of 10
Jake Gyllenhaal deserves an Oscar. Not an Oscar nomination and not a little gold star that he can post on his fridge. He deserves the Oscar for best actor in a leading role.
But knowing the Academy he isn’t going to get it.
This is the same Academy that denied Saving Private Ryan a best picture prize in favor of Shakespeare in Love, nominated Adam Sandler’s Click for an Oscar but not Casino Royale, and for some mysterious reason thought Argo was better than Silver Linings Playbook. Oh, and Leonardo DiCaprio still doesn’t have an Oscar (but Nicholas Cage and Whoopi Goldberg do).
In other words, Gyllenhaal deserves an Oscar, but Nightcrawler isn’t artsy or pompous enough for the Academy to actually give him one.
His portrayal of Louis Bloom was more convincing and more absorbing than anything I’ve seen for a while. He managed to be cunning and deranged while simultaneously spewing out business ethics and strategies to anyone who would or wouldn’t listen.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Rick, Louis’s protégé / mule panics about the morality of their actions as they are leaving a crime scene at which Louis has crossed many lines, both moral and legal. Louis, for his part, ignores Rick’s cries and gives a rehearsed tirade about how Rick needs to make himself indispensible for the company and about his long-term views for the arc of his business. The contrast between Louis’s calm, controlled speech and Rick’s panicked cries brilliantly highlights just how deranged and sociopathic Louis is. It’s awesome.
And by the time we get to the finale, Louis’s disregard of human life and his single-minded pursuit of success and domination seem almost sensible, almost human. It’s both chilling and fascinating.
Aside from Gyllenhaal, the plot of Nightcrawler is also exceptional. It’s inventive, dangerous, and darkly comical, three things that jive together very well in this film. It manages to critique the culture of journalism and self-help while not losing its crackling intensity. As always, though, the plot has its drawbacks. Some points seem underdeveloped, like Louis’s manipulation of Nina and his clashes with police, while others seem unnecessary, like some of the plethora of crime scenes that Louis and Rick visit.
Had Gyllenhaal and the story been supported by other complimentary pieces, this movie may very well have been a 10 out of 10, my first as a distinguished ScreenWars reviewer. But, unfortunately, there really wasn’t much else there. Rene Russo had a solid role as Nina, a station manager that Louis continually manipulates, but her relationship with Louis seemed undercooked and cold. As I said, the police looked into Louis for only about 10 minutes, but I feel like that could have and even should have been blown into a larger element of the story.
Riz Ahmed had a nice first mainstream performance as Rick, Louis’s sidekick, but he too felt underused. The relationship between him and Louis should have, in my opinion, been played up more because it offered insight into the latter’s mind and personality which, as I said, was the main force driving the movie.
And that’s basically it with Nightcrawler. It doesn’t boast any artsy significance like other Oscar winners (The Artist), but what it does do is offer chilling reflections of our society. We unknowingly ingest everyday on the news everything that Louis goes out there to film. We crave the violence and the gore just as much as he does, even if we mask it better than he does. And, at the end of the day, we all have a desire to be successful and be dominant over others that is eerily reminiscent of Louis’s willingness to exploit other people.
So no, Nightcrawler might not win an Oscar and it might not even be nominated. Movies have been snubbed with as much substance as Nightcrawler and sometimes even more (Reservoir Dogs wasn’t nominated for anything) but they’ve sure as hell won with quite a bit less too (Forrest Gump). Nevertheless, Nightcrawler might just be a sleeper in the race for the Oscars. Maybe the Academy will wake up this year.
Like Nightcrawler? Hate it? Let us know in the comment section below!