Nightcrawler (2014)

Review #1,108

Director:  Dan Gilroy
Cast:  Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, Rene RussoBill Paxton
Plot:  When Lou Bloom, a driven man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story. 

Genre:  Crime / Drama / Thriller
Awards:  Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Original Screenplay
Runtime:  117min
Rating:  PG13 for violence including graphic images, and for language.

“Who am I?  I'm a hard worker.  I set high goals and I've been told that I'm persistent.”

One of the unexpected gems of recent months, Nightcrawler is a terrific film, supremely enjoyable even if it may suffer slight pacing issues.  One would tend to overlook those issues because this movie is sleek as hell, shot by the great Robert Elswit, who has done some remarkable cinematography for most of the works of Paul Thomas Anderson, including There Will Be Blood (2007) which he won an Oscar for. 

The visuals hook you with its dark, polished look, yet retaining a sense of unmediated immediacy.  This is crucial because this is a film centering on a character with a video-camera, who makes use of the mediating tool to pursue questionable freelance crime journalism for a news broadcast station.  He chances upon this form of work inadvertently, after witnessing a crew of videographers recording the aftermath of an automobile accident.

His name is Louis Bloom, played by Jake Gyllenhaal in a performance so outstanding, effective and devilish that he is likened to a hungry wild coyote, an image he was seeking to project.  His transformation into Louis is stunning, delivering spitfire lines without blinking, and maintaining an uneasy sense of composure despite the circumstances surrounding him. 

He is very much like Javier Bardem playing Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men (2007), but who speaks like Jessie Eisenberg in The Social Network (2010).  He is the epitome of someone who literally memorized and applied Business 101 principles in his newfound job, disregarding all forms of human empathy and connection.  In other words, he is evil. 

Much like some of the evil bosses or clients whom many of us would have probably encountered in our work before, but whom we also quietly disregard as human beings.  As much as the film is about the ethics of media reporting, it is also about the ethics of character.  Writer-director Dan Gilroy, in only his first feature, successfully explores these issues in an uncompromising, disturbing, even gleeful manner.

In the style of a noir piece, Nightcrawler is essentially a character study, very much a Taxi Driver (1976) for the modern age, even if it isn’t at a similar level as Scorsese’s masterpiece.  In any case, if you like bold, thought-provoking thrills with a morbid edge, Nightcrawler is for you.  It is very refreshing to see something like this being attempted, something that David Fincher might have considered as a project.  It also contains one of the most exciting climaxes of this year’s crop of movies.  So don’t miss this.

Verdict:  Jake Gyllenhaal puts in a devilish star performance in this sleek crime-journalism noir piece that borders on the disturbing.

GRADE: A- (8.5/10 or 4 stars)

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