Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton
Written for the screen and directed by Dan Gilroy
Metacritic rating: 76
IMDB rating: 8.0
Nominated for 1 Oscar (Best Writing – Original Screenplay), 1 Golden Globe (Best Actor – Drama: Jake Gyllenhaal)
Rated R for violence including graphic images, and for language
Ambition and direction can lead to some interesting situations and consequences. Whereas some see it as the proper motivation to do their best and strive to be better at what they are, others use it as a reason to be amoral, heartless, even cold. It’s certainly an odd package when someone portrays both ends of the spectrum. And yet, this stunning polarity doesn’t leave this film disjointed: it actually gives it more character than most films do with the same themes. Just…very darkly.
Louis Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is what can be called a drifter looking for direction and work to bide his time. He suddenly gets inspiration by watching a camera crew led by Loder (Paxton) film car wrecks and shootings to become what is a “nightcrawler,” a person who videotapes footage of these crimes and accidents to get sold to news channels, specifically one run by Nina (Russo), From there, his videos get to be more on demand for its quality, and quite brutal, footage he collects.
Nightcrawler is a film that should have problems but seems to expertly weave through those by using an excellent script and a very understated but disturbed performance by Gyllenhaal. The fact that most of the characters in this movie can be deemed irreprehensible to some on the onset of what they do is also surprising that they end up being likable and left viewers oddly rooting for them.
This is partly due to Gyllenhaal’s performance as Lou Bloom, who goes from ne’er-do-well to highly successful by crossing lines and boundaries most wouldn’t. Gyllenhaal’s performance is a mix of Travis Bickle and that boss you had from that one job that always used canned phrases to converse with associates. It’s with that and the smoldering intensity that Gyllenhaal brings that gives Lou a very distinct, dark quality that few anti-heroes are made right.
What makes Gyllenhaal’s performance is so stark that he does so much with dialogue that would feel more tepid, trite and boring in most movies. Never before will you feel uneasy while being given a motivational speech about the need to negotiate terms and getting ahead in a business. His performance can be seen to some as canny or wooden, but it’s the subtle things he does (little to no blinking, certain ways of walking and moving) that really shows who Lou Bloom is.
Rene Russo also gives a performance in this film that is worthy of notice. Being both employer, and some ways victim, to Bloom can usually lead to a role that isn’t much to actually go through. Yet, Russo gives an edge to her character as a desperate TV exec trying to get more eyeballs on her channel. It’s not a terribly deep performance (it’s not meant to be) but its good in a scene chewing way that helps cleanse Gyllenhaal’s measured and tapered performance.
The strongest asset to this movie, however, is the writing of the characters and the story. Nightcrawler is a movie that could have easily turned into a voyeuristic freak-fest with an obvious moral story attached to it, but it goes in different directions you wouldn’t expect. When you finally feel you have a grasp on what is going on and what is going to happen, the movie curveballs you into a different direction that was unexpected.
The story also doesn’t give you a straight forward direction to either root for or against Lou (or to find what he does troubling or not), which is a daring take to go on when it comes to a film that is part noir, part voyeur and all searing dark in tone. There’s a tone of levity and humor embedded organically into this dark tale of ambition motivation.
Where there is fault is its supporting performance, including Bill “I Play Smarmy Asshole” Paxton. Yes, Paxton does this role well but it’s actually kind of jarring in this movie that has such a tight grip on what it wants to be.
Nightcrawler is a movie that is definitely a “what you interpret is what you get out of it” movie, but in the best of ways. Whether you like or hate the main character, the quality of the writing and pacing is undeniable and is worth your two hours to delve into.
4.5/5 – Gyllenhaal gives a great performance, writing in excellent. Must see!
The Wiz Says #6