Nightcrawler – Review
Someone famous once said, “Sometimes greatness is achieved and other times it is thrust upon you. He should have amended that comment with, “sometimes it can make you a creepy video camera man for the eleven clock news”. Such is the case in Jake Gyllenhaal’s nothing short of stellar performance as Lou Bloom in the psycho thriller called “Nightcrawler”.
The entirety of the film takes place in Los Angeles and mostly at night. At the onset we find the central character Lou Bloom; a young but physically gaunt man with his eyes that seem to be bulging literally out of their sockets engaging in what is clearly a petty crime of stolen construction tools and precious metals. He then proceeds to drive across town to peddle off his stolen merchandise to a construction site foremen who is clearly reluctant to buy them but does so at a “take it or leave it” price. Lou, who already has proven he has a charming gift for bartering and conversation seizes the moment to also ask that same foreman for the chance of a full time job, but with a role of his eyes the foreman sarcastically replies “why would I hire a thief?”
That same night while heading home he comes upon an auto accident where his innate curiosity causes him to pull over to see what has happened. As he walks towards the car he notices a cameraman named Joe Loder filming the event while the two police officers try to extricate a woman from a burning vehicle. When the ambulance arrives Lou walks back with Joe to his media van where he learns Joe is a freelance cameraman for local media. Joe explains that his line of work can be a good job for the right man as long as you got the right equipment and you get there first to secure the “if it bleeds it leads” kind of video. It’s at this moment in the film and its overall plot the words “happenstance”, “coincidence”, “luck” and or “fate” never becomes truer. Joe has an epiphany; the once a few minutes ago Lou the petty thief has now become Lou crime scene videographer.
After securing a cheap camera and reading ferociously anything about doing his new line of work on the internet, Lou goes from being a crime scene annoying nuisance to cleverly being the one guy who is now getting the cutting edge kind of video. He is especially valued by a flailing local network that Lou also coincidently chose to sell his prized nightly crime scene videos to. It also helps in the story that the news director named Nina (Rene Russo) is both as aggressive as Lou is but is also struggling in her job with low ratings. Over time they both see in each other the potential in getting their careers on track with Lou’s relentless aggressive ability to get the video first better than anyone else.
From here on, the film’s story evolves into something more than watching an ambitious cameraman. What we see in Lou is a highly intelligent man who is learning his craft in leaps and bounds. He also start to learn that sometimes he can be both the first on the scene as well as the one who can help “shape” the story more dramatically when no one is looking to secure higher ratings and ultimately making himself more indispensable as someone to be trusted and reliable.
“Nightcrawler” overall transpires into the realms of the power of cerebral manipulation and the dysfunctional ethos of modern media. And through both of these elements we see how it affects the principles Lou, Nina and Joe together, but also a young unemployed naïve man named Rick who Lou manages to cleverly convince he could use him on the sly cheap as an intern for $30 a night.
The movie overall itself is good with a few moments of greatness. Clearly, first time Director Dan Gilroy borrows heavily stylistically wise from Director Michael Mann with his expertise of filming people, crime and night time in big city Los Angles (i.e. Collateral and Heat). He also, with a few moments early in the film, writes as well as his brother Tony Gilroy who directed one my favorite films of all time “Michael Clayborn” which was nominated for Best Picture in 2007. The writing screenplay for the most part is highly cerebral, top notched and eerily fascinating to hear with the one exception of the film seemingly getting a little flat for a few minutes around the 40 minute mark. But what stood out for me more than anything structurally was what Director Gilroy delivers in the last 30 minutes of the film that in my estimation was some of the most suspenseful and spin tingling work I have seen all year. I literally had goose bumps on my arms from the slow buildup of tension.
In the end, the star of this film is glaringly obvious in its 2 hour running time and it is the performance of Jake Gyllenhaal’s. He is eerily powerful as he channels some unusual inner charisma that I have rarely seen in any young actor before. He is audacious, mesmerizing, powerful, and while sometimes his Lou felt like a bit of a farce, he always manages to keep his character tightly wrapped in an acting canvas of being creepy, amusing, smart and all too real. He also used his bulging eyes as a subliminal prop giving off the appearance of some nocturnal predator who never sleeps, always looking at you for a weakness – always on the prowl. And it with those eyes you can never tell as a viewer of this film when listening to what Lou had to say was it something you could trust as being true. Was he lying to you or was he simply someone who doesn’t like you. Ultimately, his character is emotionally incapable of revealing anything about himself through his eyes because he doesn’t want you to know; it’s just naturally who he is.
Obviously I don’t have a vote for the academy award nominations, but if I did (as it stands now) Gyllenhaal would be the first name I would write on my 5 name ballot for Best Actor. He gives the best performance by an actor I have seen this year and dare I say it, you will not find a better performance for all of 2014 – Jake is just that good here.
3 – 3/4 Stars