Apparently all you need to succeed is hard work, dedication, and a complete lack of emotion and human decency.
“Nightcrawler” stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a driven Los Angeles resident dedicated to owning the world of free lance news video. That dedication, along with his sociopathic tendencies, make him perfect for this high speed world of crime journalism, filming crashes, fires, murder and mayhem that feeds a news culture hungry for more blood to show it’s viewers. The movie invites you to see the horror this curious world while at the same time confronting the horror in our own curiosities about it. And make no mistake, director Dan Gilroy is pointing his camera directly at us in making this powerful point. And I think it really hits home.
Much of this is of course due to what is probably the best thing about the movie, the performance of Jake Gyllenhaal. I mean just wow. Seriously, after Prisoners last year and End of Watch the year before, dude is quietly making his case as one of the top 5 actors working today. He takes on the role of Lou Bloom, this seemingly emotionless, win at all costs character with such persistence that you get sucked completely in, somehow both completely disgusted and impressed by what he’s doing on the screen. It’s a tricky balance, but one that is key to the themes of the film and Jake pulls it off with an uncommon flair. Rene Russo and Bill Paxton are good too, but it’s absolutely Gyllenhaal who owns this story. Which, by the way, is a pretty intense and thrilling ride in and of itself. Gilroy does a great job at leading us down this dark and twisted world with exactly the pace and information that we need to stay invested and interested.
Even at almost 2 hours it feels like it absolutely flies by. Of course, I think a lot of that is that our minds are constantly engaged, questioning the moral choices of what is happening on the screen while at the same time allowing us to ponder our own role in creating the demand for the darkness. In subtle, but pointed ways, Gilroy takes moments of this movie to shift the camera to us, to confront our own sickness, and to wonder how we the audience are part of the arena in this modern gladiatorial pursuit. It’s powerful stuff, that takes this good movie and makes it a great one. Not a perfect one, mind you, but still pretty great.
I mean there are a couple flaws here. For one, the plot doesn’t really go anywhere interesting beyond the basic character study of these people. Of course, that study is so compelling it’s easily forgiven, but the story does lack some oomph. Plus, there are a few moments here where I’m pretty sure Lou would have been hauled off to jail. Moments where his decisions seem so reckless that it takes you out of the movie for a split second wondering how the police don’t know what he’s up to.
Even so though, Nightcrawler is still a fascinating watch. Thanks to a tightly woven tale, a thought provoking and challenging message, and an incredible performance by Jake Gyllenhaal, even with some minor believability and story issues, it still crawls it’s way to an A-