“Nightcrawler” is the debut feature film from Dan Gilroy, who is mostly known for his writing credits over the past several years. Nightcrawler follows Lou Bloom (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) a young, ambitious and hard-working man hoping to create a life for himself through dedication and perseverance. Happening upon a chance accident on the freeway, Lou finds himself getting involved in crime journalism after filming a victim at said accident. He’s see it as an in and begins to get involved in the business taking his footage to local news stations. Before long the lines between observer and participant start to become blurred and Lou finds himself becoming the star of his own news. The film also stars Rene Russo, Bill Paxton and Riz Ahmed.
Nightcrawler is ultimately a journey through the eyes of a man who is totally void of a conscience, living an immoral life. Lou is the worst of the worst, feeding off of people’s misfortunes and tragedy, possessing characteristics made up of the worst of capitalism, he will stop at nothing to achieve success and is in fact pretty proud of it. Even if you’re not satisfied when the credits roll, you can’t deny Lou, due to his charming yet disturbing personality makes for a very engrossing character study.
Nightcrawler captures a certain brand of atmosphere that most Crime/Drama’s fail to and I think that’s due to the original take on this subject matter. References to film’s like “Network” and “Drive” have already been made, I can’t comment on Network because I haven’t seen it. Other than a similar soundtrack and a cool set of wheels Nightcrawler and Drive have very little in common. One is about a mysterious driver (our protagonist), who represents good while the other is part of the bottom feeders of society. The film opens with some lovely establishing shots of LA at night (I suppose in the same fashion Drive does), we quickly get to some fast and active camera work along with some really snappy and tight editing. The entire film is very personally shot, it’s a very voyeuristic style of film, much like David Lynch’s masterpiece “Lost Highway”. A lot of Nightcrawler is handheld (like Gyllenhaal’s previous film “End Of Watch”) and done incredibly well to boot. The score is very moody and reminiscent of “Drive” and I loved that. A nice blend of really cool sound effects along with some clever use of bass.
The witty and fast paced dialogue really draws you in. Jake delivers Lou’s lines perfectly. The timing is expertly crafted and his mannerisms are extremely creepy. If nothing else a very gaunt Gyllenhaal is something that people will definitely remember about this film. Countless pieces of dialogue begin with “I recently saw/read and or heard so and so” and on it goes. Lou seems to retain particular information like a book, but one about something which isn’t all the relevant to those around him, it kind of parallels how some people who suffer from Aspergers talk. The acting is solid by everyone involved but it’s Jake that steals the show and sells the film with his unbelievable conviction. Some of those small monologues that start out seemingly normal and quickly turn very manipulative make for some wonderful scenes. The look he gives himself in the mirror is just disturbing and that kind of intensity through the eyes is there for the entire 120 minute running time. Jake is quickly becoming one of the best in the business with the dedication he throws into his work and the research that goes into it. Some people have commented on what the film has to say about the news and the media and how they spin story’s to raise ratings etc. I’m not particularly interested in that side of it, the media does what it does and I have no control over that, I’m just there to be entertained.
I can’t really fault the films intentions to depict Lou as this desperate man who will stop at nothing to make something of himself but it would have been nice to see where that drive actually came from. There is no background story, not even some loose information about the life he’s led or how he arrived at this point. You would think someone with a good work ethic and so eager to succeed would have been able to find a job long before he lucks into the business of nightcrawling. Jake has wonderful diction for narration so maybe a monologue or two discussing his thought process may have helped us get into his head a little more rather than just be an innocent bystander. There are a few scenes that just lagged a little and a missed opportunity to explain how one video he captures manages to turn him into some sort of prodigy overnight. He goes from driving a cheap little run around car and filming with your basic home video recorder to shooting with new and expensive equipment and driving to crime scenes in a Dodge Challenger (which did look epic). I wouldn’t have thought one video could make you that much money, a few neatly edited scenes could have touched on that in a better fashion, How long did it take him to get that reputation as the go to guy?.
The only other thing I will touch on is the character of Rick (played by Riz Ahmed), the performance itself was decent enough but he just didn’t seem to project much. Obviously he and Lou were never really friends it was very much a you help me and I’ll help you type of deal. Rick having been living an uneventful life obviously saw Lou’s job offer as an opportunity to make something of himself but he didn’t seem at all bothered by Lou’s reckless nature and frenzied persona, at least not enough to do something about it, or to even try. It was just a character I had little to no interest in and it took away from the enjoyment of those scenes involving the two.
Nightcrawler is a very well made film and in a year that didn’t bring us many truly great films, this one has to rank up there as one of the best. It lost my attention a couple of times throughout but for the most part it manages to entertain and keep you glued on watching Lou’s rise to the top unfold, (very much like the news keeps us glued). The moody score, camera work and intensity of Jake’s performance alone are reasons enough to see this film when you get the chance. I look forward to Dan’s next feature film.
My rating for “Nightcrawler” is 7/10