In the last few years, we’ve witnessed stars turn around their careers after having a few flops. Everyone brings up Matthew McConaughey in this discussion, but we really should be focusing our attention on the wonder that is Jake Gyllenhaal. After Source Code, End of Watch, Prisoners, and Enemy, this guy is unstoppable! He’s consistently churning out incredible performances in very solid films and he’s already proved himself to be a great in his earlier work. Now, he may have just graced us with his greatest performance to date. It figures that it’s one that’s extremely unsettling.
Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a persistent, hard-working, and unusual individual. He spends most of his days alone, doing questionably illegal things as a means to make some money for himself. Despite his off-kilter personality, Lou is extremely smart and perceptive, as he understands how people work and what they want out of other people. After witnessing an accident and watching a video crew film the scene and get paid by the news for their footage, Lou decides that he too will film crime scenes and he will go to extraordinary lengths to get the footage that he wants and believes that the people want.
Lou begins to work closely with news operator Nina (Rene Russo) and it’s clear that their morals are far looser than most, as they do things that they shouldn’t in order to get headlines. Lou’s inspiration for work and working harder comes from his interactions with fellow nightcrawler Joe Loader (Bill Paxton) and his protege, Rick (Riz Ahmed). Together, Lou and Rick patrol the streets at night, seeking out only the most heinous and newsworthy crimes. Rick sees the dark side to all the work, but Lou can only focus on making his mark on the world.
Nightcrawler creeps up behind you and takes you by surprise with its hypnotic, unflinching performances and impeccable direction that make it a fantastic portrayal of the lengths some people will go to in order to get what they want. Everything about this film is just so engrossing and it’s hard not to enjoy the creepiness that you’re witnessing. While the film may not involve horror or many scares, there’s certainly something to be said for the constant thrills that this film provides and the unnerving overall effort that leaves you with a slightly bad taste in your mouth. I haven’t enjoyed a film like this in quite some time and I can see that it clearly has a ton of potential to do extremely well come awards season.
Jake Gyllenhaal provides a remarkable turn in this film and perhaps creates his most defining role yet. After losing 30-pounds, practicing his inflection, not blinking for minutes at a time, and I suspect watching American Psycho a few-hundred times that Gyllenhaal arrived at a truly complex character. Not only is his delivery spectacular and enticing, but his questionable mental state makes him all the more interesting to explore throughout the film. He’s may seem simple and introverted to most people, but he’s hyper-intelligent, adaptive, and very driven which makes him quite frightening. The scariest thing is that you never know what he’s thinking or may do about something, as he could snap at any minute. The intensity that he brings to his performance is exceptional and this may be his best performance yet, as well as one of the year’s.
It was very refreshing to see Rene Russo again and it always helps that she does a wonderful job in her role. It also helps that her role is a juicy one and allows her to stretch her acting legs. She transforms from a gracious news associate, into a vicious and relentless woman who will do anything and everything to keep her career and keep a leg-up on the competition. She brings a pleasant energy at first and then divulges in these immoral habits that twist her character and lead her down a dark, inescapable ditch. It’s equally enjoyable to see her berate and destroy someone, as it is to watch her reign over her life escape her hands and transfer into Gyllenhaal’s. The two have an electric and dark chemistry that makes the film even more enjoyable than it already is.
Director Dan Gillroy hones in on a facet of our media that’s as questionable as it is fascinating. The fact that there are these videographers that attempt to film gruesome crimes and then sell them to news outlets is somewhat upsetting, but it does make sense in some twisted way. The concept of this film isn’t entirely something new, but the TMZ approach is certainly relevant and something that people will ultimately support or detest. Gilroy’s exploration of this niche industry is very precise, as he tracks the ups and downs of how everything works and he manages to keep his lens steady and crisp all throughout the film. He keeps us right in-front of the action as it’s happening and when he doesn’t, he’s gracing us with breathtaking aerial shots of Los Angeles that take up the entire screen with their beauty. This film looks good and it also sounds quite good as well.
When you put all of these impressive elements together, you get a final product that is visually and aesthetically pleasing and something that really grabs a hold of you and takes you for a thrilling ride. In a literal sense, Nightcrawler has THE best car chase of the year and that ride is one that’s full of intense driving, close-up shots, and lots of wreckage that make for a stunning few minutes on-screen. Bill Paxton and Riz Ahmed may not have a ton of time on-screen, but they do wonders with the time they do have. Ahmed especially shines in a supporting turn that’s quite impressive, as he has to work directly with the unbalanced character that Gyllenhaal crafted. The two have some often funny, sometimes intimidating scenes together that allow for the understanding of what ideals they represent and how to resemble the different viewpoints when it comes to this line of work.
Nightcrawler plays exceptionally well with audiences, as your range of emotions and expressions is sure to be ever-changing as what you watch grows more exhilarating. The film’s score aids the bright and stunning visuals that you behold and the tense, entrancing performances make sure that you attention to the screen never wavers. The film is predominately entertaining and fulfilling, except for the few moments where some scenes drag on longer than they should. The film’s ending was slightly questionable, but it made enough sense in retrospect. Other than those minor quarrels, Nightcrawler is a bonafide success that boasts some of the years best performances, visuals, and dialogue!