Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Film Review: Nightcrawler



Set against the sprawling, neon-drenched backdrop of Los Angeles, Nightcrawler sees Jake Gyllehaal play Lou Bloom, an out-of-work thief who discovers a talent for capturing crime on film and selling it on to local news outlets. 

Sucked into the gritty LA underbelly, Lou soon becomes engrossed in finding the perfect crime to document, manipulating and hurting those around him in the process.

Nightcrawler isn't a horror film. But there is something deeply unsettling and horrifying about it, and most of it stems from Jake Gyllenhaal. Or, to be exact, Jake Gyllenhaal's eyes. Sunken deep into his sockets, Gyllenhaal's cold, calculating stare tells you everything you need to know about this driven, uncompromising man - as well as keeping what he's thinking a complete mystery.

His character, Lou Bloom, is a 'nightcrawler' - a freelance cameraman who stalks the dark LA streets at night, documenting the numerous crimes, deaths and calamities that will soon be the talk of the town, broadcast to millions as they scoff breakfast and watch the morning news. It's a high-speed, cut-throat profession, one that relies upon a working knowledge of what will hook audiences, and what will sell for a high price.

And for Lou, this knowledge comes easy. It's topping himself, finding new angles and images to shock and awe, that is a challenge. After all, you've seen it once, you've seen it a thousands times. In forging a partnership with Nina (Rene Russo), a TV-news veteran, and plucky young intern Rick (Riz Ahmed), Lou's ambition to document the perfect crime soon spirals out of control, and he finds himself playing a bigger role in these crimes than ever before.

Dan Gilroy (who both wrote and directed the film) delivers a sublime screenplay that is jam-packed full of heart-pumping set-pieces, meaty dialogue and nuanced character moments. The pacing in particular is pitch-perfect, with Lou's descent into madness wonderfully arced throughout the plot - what starts out as a curious hobby soon manifests itself into an all-encompassing psychosis. The cherry on top is the final 20 minutes, a breathless crescendo for which I was perched perilously on the edge of my seat throughout.

For someone who has both studied and worked in the media industry, the underlying message of how tragedy is framed, and the sickening images we consume on the nightly news, was particularly grabbing. Rene Russo's character of Nina embodies this shocking mentality of "if it bleeds, it leads", and witnessing how that mantra worms its way into Lou's mind was captivating.

It's a film that makes you think, forcing to you to consider the way in which the news turns us all into bloodthirsty voyeurs. Kind of like how The Hunger Games satirises reality TV, Nightcrawler lays bare the seedy underbelly of journalism and broadcasting for us all to see. Gilroy's script (and Gyllenhaal's performance) toy with the moralistic implications of Lou's actions, and how the whole system is just a sickening uncaring circus hellbent on ratings and outdoing the other network.

Just like the twisted accidents Lou documents, Nightcrawler is simultaneously repulsive and captivating. You don't want to watch, but you can't seem to stop. As Lou spirals downward, the audience is both appalled and riveted by how far this complex, driven character will go to get what he wants.

Gyllenhaal is without a doubt the star of this show, as delivers a performance that can easily be proclaimed as his best yet. Move aside Enemy, Zodiac and Prisoners, this is Gyllenhaal at his peak. You reach the point with this film where you no longer see Jake Gyllenhaal, but just see Lou Bloom. His performance is that good. Once you can look past the actor and just see the character, you know you're onto something special.

Likewise, Rene Russo and Riz Ahmed are great in their respective supporting roles. Nina's (Russo) relationship with Lou (and how Lou bends and manipulates her) is an interesting (and unexpectedly brilliant) element to the film. One scene, where Lou and Nina discuss their intertwining needs over dinner is riveting, darkly comic and disturbing all at the same time.

Gilroy's direction is so smooth, and it really draws the audience into the sleek, grimy setting. The rich colours and luscious lighting are just two of the many visual treats on offer in Nightcrawler.

The score (James Newton Howard) perfectly captures this tension by mixing elements of thick Josh Homme-esque desert rock/grunge and haunting noir orchestral pieces. I didn't notice it until afterwards, but the score really did enhance the experience with Nightcrawler, working to further immerse the audience in the strangely beautiful nocturnal LA setting.

The Verdict: 10/10


Sleek, nail-biting and drop dead gorgeous, Nightcrawler is the whole package. From a captivating lead performance to a breathless screenplay and beautiful cinematography, I'm finding it impossible to pin down anything that didn't seem...perfect. In fact, I'm running out of superlatives to sum up just how fantastic Dan Gilroy's film is - you'll just have to see it for yourself. I guarantee, you won't be able to peel yourself away the entire time. Put simply, Nightcrawler is a masterpiece.

14 comments:

  1. You know, it has the nuance of David Lynch's Mulholland Drive there, I don't know perhaps because of the LA setting or anything else.
    Great, compelling review anyway!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! For me, I getting serious Drive vibes - especially once Lou had the decked out Dodge!

      Delete
  2. Glad you enjoyed it! One of the best of the year, thus far.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great review! Easily one of my favorites of the year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Brittani! :) Yeah, totally agree. Definitely Top 3 in my books!

      Delete
  4. Nice review, Rhys. Gyllenhaal sure was something else, wasn't he? Certainly a career best for sure, and a damn good film overall as well. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Chris! I'd go as far to say that Gyllenhaal is one of the most interesting actors working today - the roles he has picked in this, Enemy and Prisoners have been really meaty and full of depth. Interested to see where he goes next! :)

      Delete
  5. So glad to read the praise for score, I read so many complaints in other reviews and I personally thought that Howard's music really added to the film's awesome, fast pace

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nah, the score was great! Very atmospheric, I completely agree :) Thanks for commenting Sati!

      Delete
  6. Gyllenhaal does certain things with this character that I wasn't expecting him to, and that's half of the wonder in this role. Good review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Dan! His performance certainly elevated the character, and the movie, to new heights!

      Delete
  7. Definitely the best film of the year, I would agree with your review 10/10... like the review too. I just felt that the main character,The Night Crawler was going to crack at any minute... he was so scary... an absolute nut job. Kitt Drury

    ReplyDelete

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...