Nightcrawler

nightcrawler-1

Release: Friday, October 31, 2014

[Theater]

Written by: Dan Gilroy

Directed by: Dan Gilroy

For anyone reeling in nostalgia for the days of Donnie Darko, boy do I have some good news for you.

Jake Gyllenhaal is back and at least for the moment seems untouchable once more, playing the consummate weirdo very few of us are likely to be jealous of being incapable of mimicking. We are, however, gobsmacked by his talents again; in awe of a star’s willingness to go so far in the opposite direction of who they likely really are for the sake of seeking the truth in performance art.

Or, perhaps it’s not that big of a stretch. Maybe the male Gyllenhaal is naturally drawn to the darkness, as a fly to a light. This time he’s called upon by first-time director Dan Gilroy to don a façade whose ability to identify with humanity is often overridden by a need to separate from it. Self-sufficiency is the name of the game.

Meet Louis Bloom. He calls himself Lou, along with a number of other more professional and less personal adjectives. He’s first seen scouting a deserted construction site for some materials he will later try to sell back to the construction company for a small profit. The act functions as both microcosm — first he’ll try to take over a scrap yard and soon it will be the city — as well as a crucial first step towards chasing after much loftier ambitions. Audaciously he would go on to ask the man behind the desk about any available positions within the company, but the guy won’t hire a thief and so it is back to the drawing board for Lou.

It was probably for the better, anyway, as he soon encounters a television crew on the highway covering what appears to be a fatal car accident. It’s still early on in the film’s impossibly fluid two-hour runtime and we are getting to a place where we understand already subtlety is not a word in Lou’s vocabulary. He quickly makes his presence known at the scene and brushes up against Bill Paxton’s accomplished camera man to see if there’s any work for him with them. No, there’s not. But there is money in this racket, he’s told.

Lou quickly gets his hands on a cheap camera and he even hires a staff. . . .of one. He comes into contact with a slightly scruffy-looking man from the streets, a young fellow named Rick (Riz Ahmed) whose wide-eyed naivety and desperation for work makes Lou’s goal-setting seem an impossible quest for wealth and popularity rather than an act manifested out of necessity. Make no mistake, one certainly seems more desperate than the other.

They may seem an odd-couple like any other you’ve seen before, though the tandem quickly come to epitomize the term ‘nightcrawlers’ — workers looking for the good money by filming the stuff that makes early morning news — bloody and if possible, fatal vehicular accidents, home invasions, shootings, things like that — using any means necessary. Stalking the night. Gyllenhaal’s mesmerizing work as a man who blurs the line between bystander and active participant in a crime scene is the butter to Gilroy’s toast. And his toast, of course, is a truly original and compelling screenplay that conjures up characters who live and breathe death and destruction for another paycheck.

Paired with focused and intense direction that often thrusts us into the middle of the street without any hope of knowing what’s to come next — this is a brilliantly unpredictable adventure even if the opening shots are more than foreboding — the story allows us to never entirely hate this character even if we know we are morally bankrupting ourselves by doing so. We are actually capable of something even sicker: understanding his motives. Even if we can’t rectify what gets sacrificed. Come the film’s bullet-riddled conclusion, we’ll see the genius in Gilroy’s creation in a new light.

Speaking of which, Nightcrawler is bathed in all kinds of beautiful lighting, despite its ostensibly exclusive nighttime setting. It has the feel of a noir but on a much grander, almost blockbuster scale. It’s a rare kind of film performance-wise as this is a role that may supersede the psychological perturbation of Donnie Darko. If I’m gushing over him, I should probably apologize, for there are others who turn in strong work as well. One of those is Rene Russo, playing the morning news director Nina, who strongly encourages Lou to pursue freelance journalism.

Nina’s a force to be reckoned with and operates within a very difficult realm, a gray area in which station ratings are directly related to how good the material is. (But be careful to not show viewers anything too graphic, they’ll be watching this stuff with their breakfast.) Never before has the media mantra “if it bleeds, it leads” been twisted to fulfill such a haunting cinematic vision. Also compelling is Riz Ahmed, Lou’s assistant, who is eager to get to work and earn some kind of wage for himself. He deftly conveys a nervous apprehension to the job being asked of him, while avoiding falling into the ‘sidekick’ trope. Paxton isn’t in it for very long but exists in the frame long enough to leave an impression.

Nightcrawler is, thanks to its performances and solid narrative pulse, one of the best movies of the year and another solid reminder that Oscars season is upon us. After experiencing one of the year’s most unforgettable characters, and if I am speaking honestly I am glad I made the money to buy this ticket.

nightcrawler-2

4-5Recommendation: It is hard to imagine anyone not getting sucked in by the curious trailers heralding a return to weirdness for Jake Gyllenhaal. How can anyone resist that soul-burning stare of his, sitting perched before a backdrop of the L.A. area bathed in sunset (or rise)? He is positively chilling in the role and 100% the reason you should see this film. And if the trailer isn’t quite enough to sell you, maybe the fact he was Donnie Darko will. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 117 mins.

Quoted: “My motto is, if you wanna win the lottery, you’ve gotta make the money to buy a ticket.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

Advertisements

52 thoughts on “Nightcrawler

  1. Pingback: The 2014 DigiBread Awards | digitalshortbread

  2. Great review! I’m actually seeing this tonight and it looks like Gyllenhaal is really amazing in this, though I’d be impressed if his work topped what he did in Brokeback Mountain – everyone talks of him reinventing his career now and being in all those great movies and giving amazing performances now but for me that was his best work.

    • Thanks so much Sati! I’m yet to see Brokeback Mountain, actually. I must remedy that soon!

      Please stop by and let me know post-viewing! I’d be curious to hear your thoughts. 😀

      • It did top his BM performance so I’m really amazed. I loved the film – very exciting and gripping, unlike some stuff i saw over the weekend like Boyhood and Still Alice, these were just too….”calm” for me.

        Brokeback Mountain is truly one of the most beautiful films, but it’s heartbreaking too.

    • Cheers! I hope you enjoy yourself if you do have the opportunity to see this, Nightcrawler, in my opinion, is an extremely well put-together film that boasts just an exquisite performance from Gyllenhaal, who has also been becoming steadily watchable for me as well.

    • Crap, how did I overlook you man? Whoops!

      Yeah, I hope it delivers for you like it did me. This was a fantastic, fantastic character study, with a never-better Gyllenhaal front-and-center. My god that guy is putting together a body of work, and perhaps even quicker than McConaughey has risen on my list of favorites, Gyllenhaal is moving on uppppp

  3. Read this the other day Tom but have held back from commenting until actually seeing the film (watched it last night). I think your review is spot on – a brilliant film and definitely one of my favourites from this year. Gyllenhaal is so good and the performance will surely be an iconic one for him. Shades of De Niro in Taxi Driver for me, and I wouldn’t say that lightly!

    • Wow, though I have yet to see Taxi Driver, I understand how lofty a compliment that is, that kind of comparison doesn’t happen often as De Niro is an absolute legend. If this film were released earlier in Gyllenhaal’s career, this would be the kind of work that solidifies his career in the industry. But now it’s just another thing to ensure he is one of the best out there. At least, I think so. He’s really grown on me since the days of Donnie Darko and I thought he was brilliant back then.

      • I’m starting to think along those lines too – I thought he was good but this really elevates him in my eyes to being up there with some of the best around. You should check out Taxi Driver … although you probably don’t need me to tell you that!

  4. Great review, Tom! Umm. I’m glad you liked this one so much. 🙂 I, Umm… I thought it was okay. 😉 Gyllenhaal was good but the movie itself didn’t live up to his performance for me.

    • You bring up a great point. I wonder how Nightcrawler will hold up after a couple of repeat viewings. The story was, from what I recall from my one theater outing, very sharp and intelligent. But it was undoubtedly the effort Gyllenhaal puts in here — and for that matter the rest of the cast — that makes this one so memorable. It may not be as good when I come back around to it again. (Or maybe I won’t — just to keep it good! Hah)

  5. Another great review, Tom! I’ve seen a lot of positive feedback for this, but…I dunno. I still kinda hesitate. Just don’t know if I’d dig it for some reason. Might give it a whirl when it comes out on DVD. Sounds like Gyllenhaal is fantastic though! It’s gonna be a crazy Oscar race next year…

    • There’s no denying the über creepiness worn on the face of Jake Gyllenhaal. When you get to know him in the movie, that creep factor multiples 100-fold. I haven’t seen him channel this kind of energy in a long long time. It is actually kind of scary! I’m hoping for an Oscar nod for sure, but I can understand putting this one on the back burner. It may not be essential viewing but if you like Gyllenhaal any, I’d suggest giving it a whack at some point.

    • Why thank you, the elusive 5 out of 5 was achieved on Fast Film Reviews as well, which is really great to see. Nightcrawler might be my favorite movie of the year. Even after Interstellar.

      • I’m so disappointed I missed this today :-/ ended up catching Big Hero 6 instead, which I loved. Planning to catch Nightcrawler next Tuesday now!

        • Nice!! You seem to have substituted one awesome movie for another awesome-looking one. I can’t wait to see Big Hero 6 myself, but it probably will be some time before I get to it. So many other things to watch right now as well! It’s almost overwhelming. :/

          So totally jealous that you still have to watch this one, though. 😀

          • Haha, I totally get how you feel about getting overwhelmed. I’m guesting on a friend’s podcast this week and the “homework” for it to watch takes a long time aside from my regular movie/TV viewing and theater outings. I’m beginning to think I really DON’T have a life outside of movies and blogging, hehe. I will definitely let you know what I think of Nightcrawler after I see it. I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll see it in theaters on Friday. 😉

  6. That poster just about sums up thoughts on the film. Don’t get me wrong, Riz Ahmed did an excellent job. He would have stole the show if it wasn’t for the poster boy. However, Jake himself is what fueled this film. Without him, I feel like it would have been a lot weaker. For such an unpredictable adventure, I thought the ending kind of…I don’t know…dropped the ball somewhat.Yet any problems with the script can be ignored due to Jake’s phenomenal performance.

    • You know what man, I’ve actually had that nagging thought with me for a couple days now. The intensity of its themes were really elevated towards the end, and to a place that I thought may have been going off the rocker a bit. But I felt it held together. Everythign developed as I kind of expected it would. And the opening shots aren’t exactly subtle as to how they tell us how to feel (or how we should feel) about this lead.

      All the same, I thought the fact this was a first-time effort from Dan Gilroy and seemingly Gyllenhaal pulling a Matthew McConaughey with role after solid freaking role, really made Nightcrawler an unforgettable one. I look forward to accessing your review of it soon.

    • I’m so pumped to hear that I have done that for you Mark, I’m wanting to watch this one again immediately if I am being completely honest. It was *that* good. And I do believe it scored the elusive perfect score from Mark Hobin at Fast Film Reviews (if you’ve visited his page.) Can’t wait to see how it fares with you my friend. I’ve got my eyes peeled for that review for sure!

  7. Excellent review!

    I have to be honest, Donnie Darko just never did it for me, but I seem to be in the minority on that one. Don’t get me wrong, I thought Gyllenhaal did a fine piece of acting in the film, but after watching it twice, as well as several other attempts to watch it again, the movie just doesn’t grab me.

    From the trailers I have seen of Nightcrawler, it does look like a film, I would enjoy watching, so I am looking forward to seeing it in the near future. I am glad you specifically mentioned that the movie, at a two hour runtime, doesn’t over stay its welcome. When a film is that length, and you don’t notice it, that is usually a sign that bodes well for the overall quality of the movie.

    • Certainly does Robbin. Running times aren’t something I typically look at before going in. Unless of course it’s something notorious (Gone With the Wind; Blue is the Warmest Colour; Interstellar). When I mention running time in a review it’s usually b/c it’s something that really stood out to me. I try to mention things that were most important about the picture. (I guess that’s pretty obvious being a film reviewer by trade yourself!)

      Nightcrawler does just hurtle by though. It really does. And it is just so so good. Dark and disturbing, but compelling stuff.

      I can empathize with the sentiment bout not liking Donnie Darko. It is a thoroughly strange flick, and I actually can’t remember if I finished it myself on the first go-round. Since I have come to love that thing, as it remains my intro to Gyllenhaal and one of the more unique and original stories I’ve watched in some time.

    • Lol I tried so damn hard to not include any photos of Nightcrawler. That would be so funny. Easy, perhaps, but funny.

      I was waiting for Jake Gyllenhaal to just go blue in the face from all the frustration of being an underpaid, nighttime journalist douchebag. lol

    • 😀 😀 😀 Zoe!!! What’s uppp!!!! Ah, so good to see your smiling face!

      I know that feeling so well: it’s frustrating. It’s actually happening right now to me while everyone I know and their brothers are seeing sneak previews of ‘Interstellar’ while I have tickets to see it tomorrow (oh, woe as me lol). I do hope you don’t have to wait too long to see this, but in whatever format you do it won’t effect it. This is great storytelling and holy shit is Jake Gyllenhaal fantastic here.

      Thank you!

      • Oh don’t even go there. If Interstellar doesn’t release here this weekend my freaking cinema will burn to the ground. That is all I know.

        As for Nightcrawler, I think Gyllenhaal is a great actor, so I am looking forward to it 😀

    • Hahah you know what man? I can see that. For me, I think Foxcatcher has become that way. Interstellar is going to probably be very very good, but Steve Carell in that role looks insane. I can’t wait one more DAY for that one to get here!

      What changed for you in terms of being a big Nolan fan? I assume you’re still a big fan but lost interest over the years I guess? I’ve had that happen with some folks. I think my appreciation for what he does is actually still growing though.

      • It’s The Dark Knight Rises. It didn’t just disappoint me as the weakest film of the trilogy but shocked me as Nolan’s most flawed film to date as well!

        Batman Begins & The Dark Knight are amongst my all-time favs n this one although was the most anticipated & hyped film of the 21st century, it failed on all fronts! And that was heartbreaking!

    • Hell yeah man, great to hear that! I hope your expectations don’t soar too high, although I’m not sure if that’s possible if you’re a J.G. fan. He is, quite simply, amazing here. 🙂

    • Hey Eddie. Yeah, it absolutely is. Those were the two things I really gleaned from this production: a stellar and career-affirming turn from Gyllenhaal and a first-rate effort from a new director on the scene. I can’t imagine it getting better given the conditions here!

  8. Gyllenhaal has been putting in some real amazing work for the past couple or so years and I can’t wait to see what he pulls out next. Good review Tom.

    • He’s having a McConaissance of his very own, isn’t he? 😉 It’s awesome to see him keep getting better and better, because to me that’s what’s happening. I like Donnie Darko a ton, but I feel this is his best yet. Thanks Dan!

    • 😀 You better believe it! 8 steaming pies for a damn amazing and yummy movie. Er, I don’t know what the second part has got to do with it, but you get me. Hahah. Thanks for commenting bud, I’m glad we see eye-to-eye on Nightcrawler. It’s terrific stuff. Possible Oscar contender?

Comments are closed.