Since the massive video game adaptation misfire Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time in 2010, Jake Gyllenhaal has completely reshaped his career. He starred in the sci-fi thriller Source Code, the acclaimed cop drama End of of Watch, and last year's creepy child abduction thriller Prisoners (one of the best crime dramas in recent memory). This year, Gyllenhaal's career revival continued with Denis Villeneuve's mindbender Enemy and finally, Nightcrawler, which tops off the Gyllenhaal renaissance with a bang. His performance in Nightcrawler is creepy and controlled, yet frighteningly dangerous. Gyllenhaal fully creates the character of Louis Bloom and it makes for one fantastic ride. Nightcrawler is a total descent into the seedy side of Los Angeles, with vile, cold characters that continue to drive the film to new levels of madness.
Louis Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is a small-time thief, who steals copper wire, fences and manholes just to get by. When he sees a brutal accident on the side of the road, accompanied by cameramen filming every single gruesome detail of the crash, Lou decides that's a job that he wants to do. He buys a camera and some equipment in exchange for a bike that he stole and begins his descent into the "nightcrawling" life. What separates Lou from the other nightcrawlers is his closeness to the crash- he'll get up close and personal with the disturbing accidents like nobody else. Eventually, Lou becomes an expert and starts selling his footage to a local news station, headed up by Nina (Rene Russo). However, Lou's dedication and willingness to do anything and everything to reach the top starts to become problematic as his true nature starts to come into play.
Nightcrawler is a dark and intense film, yet it's not necessarily a graphic one. The crash and murder scenes are bloody, but it's the way that the characters act and how the violence serves as nothing but fodder for news headlines. Director Dan Gilroy makes news media seem like a disgusting business and he allows two morally empty characters to drive the plot of this film. Mix that with the terrific cinematography, the brilliant soundtrack and the spot-on ending, and you have one of the year's most topical and interesting films.
Most of this movie is focused on Lou and his behavior, but the supporting cast still gets a chance to shine. Rene Russo's Nina is almost as psychopathic as Lou, with no sense of what's right and what's wrong. Whatever will keep her in the ranks at her job. She eats up Lou's nasty footage even when other members of her team are much more skeptical about Lou's slimy intentions. Nina is a fascinating character and makes the film much more interesting.
The thing is, Lou is willing to go down that path, and frankly, he might even be guilty of enjoying it. He takes out anybody that is in his way and doesn't even try to help the victims of the crimes that he films. "Maybe I don't like people." Lou says to his partner Rick (Riz Ahmed) towards the end of the film. His emotional coldness is deeply ingrained in his personality and I truly believe that Lou is a perfect mix of psychopath and cold, calculating and cunning killer.
Like all brilliant killers, Lou puts on a facade of being a socially awkward man. He is both sexually and socially insecure, having to buy his way into relationships. He's quite charismatic at times, with his unnerving smile, but uncomfortable at others, especially when he goes on extreme business tangents about stuff he learned online. He fascinates and puzzles people in equal measure, but the smart ones always seem wary (like one of Nina's TV contemporaries).
Dan Gilroy obviously took a lot of care creating the characters of this film, and he also manages to create an interesting and unique movie. The score, with pulsing electric guitars and invigorating rock music, is terrific and I'm still listening to it days after watching the film. The cinematography is dark and nasty, highlighting the beauty and inherent terror of Los Angeles. This is a film with a flow and rhythm and it works perfectly.
Nightcrawler is a film that delights instantly because of the awesome score, the completely bonkers car chase and the frighteningly amazing ending, and manages to continue to spark intense thought and conversation days later simply because of the fascinating characters. Gyllenhaal is brilliant and Gilroy manages to create a complex and fantastic vision of a unforgiving world where people will do anything to get to the top.
THE FINAL GRADE: A (9/10)
Image Credits: Huffington Post, Huffington Post, Neon Reels, Washington Times, Youtube, Reddit