This is a Second Opinion. When you’re done reading this, you should definitely check out Guyinthethirdrow’s review of this movie.
It might be odd, but I seem to remember a time, not too long in the past, when I actually disliked Jake Gyllenhaal. Now, I can’t for the life of me remember why…overpraise of Donnie Darko might have something to do with it.
But lately movies starring him have been going from strength to strength; Source Code was excellent, Prisoners was pretty great, End of Watch was a damn fine police movie, etc. So after reading the above linked review, I was pretty interested in seeing this latest outing.
The plot is devoted (and I mean completely) to Louis Bloom, a petty criminal living in Los Angeles. The film never gives us anything resembling a backstory for him, but the way he’s written and Gyllenhaal’s performance suggest he could be anything from a tightly wound sociopath to a weird form of autistic, the way he lacks boundaries, empathy or something resembling emotions.
Anyway, Mr. Bloom is looking for a more steady job than stealing chain link fences to sell (heh, he fences fences) and discovers the surprisingly lucrative field of Nightcrawling; He will wander around the city with a police scanner, trying to get footage of crimes to sell to news stations, a job his lack of boundaries or empathy makes him perfect for.
This is primarily Gyllenhaal’s show, and the movie is depending on him to sell the character’s bizarre affect. It’s a good thing he’s up to the challenge, and lots of little details, like his inappropriately unflappable politeness and his bizarre internet-researched vocabulary help sell him as a person who doesn’t understand how to be human.
The film never gets around to giving him much of a backstory or reason for being the way he is, but he is clearly very off. Even before the plot escalates, the sense that he’s going to do something awful pervades the entire movie. I kept expecting his skin to peel off and reveal one of the monsters from Society.
It’s mostly Gyllenhaal’s showcase, but there’s also some good supporting work. Rene Russo (Frigga, from Thor) is great as the slimy news producer who buys Louis’ increasingly disturbing footage. I don’t want to spoil the There’s also Riz Ahmed, who some of you might remember from the underrated Four Lions as Louis’ underpaid intern/navigator, who makes a great audience surrogate, especially come the third act.
The movie’s dark color palette, slow burning first act and odd music choice reminds me a lot of Drive, which isn’t a bad thing, because Drive was the s**t. Unfortunately, without Drive‘s sudden kick into high gear in the second act, the slow burn goes on a little long and takes while to get started. And while I’m complaining (I do that a lot), I like how the story is a condemnation of the modern news media, it gets a tiny bit heavy handed towards the end.
Still, that’s not as big an issue as you might think, and once it does get started it’s pretty intense. The writing is pretty solid throughout and it’s got some good direction. I wouldn’t have expected the writer of Real Steel and Two For the Money to have directing chops, but he does. I especially like the staging of the live news broadcast we get to see in the second act and the intense third act, which makes the slow burn in the first and second act more worth it, since it was building towards something.
We’ve hit something of an awkward moment in Oscar season, where I’ve already seen most of the stuff I want to see, and am mostly just waiting for the rest of the stuff I want to see to open near me (Foxcatcher) or generally be released (Inherent Vice, Big Eyes) so I’m kind of at a loss for what to see. But despite that, Nightcrawler is a damned fine little thriller and a great showcase for Gyllenhaal. Definitely give it a shot.
Elessar is a 24 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he’d like to remind you that this movie is not about a blue German guy who teleports.
– good direction, especially of a late movie chase scene
– fantastic acting from Gyllenhaal
– interesting script, with an actual point to make
– take a little bit too long to get started
– message gets very heavy handed towards the end