Review: Nightcrawler

 

Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler is essentially a perfectly crafted film. As it tells the story of naive scammer/thief Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), the film never once seems to hit a sour note or lag its pace. Through our initial intro to Lou, some fleshing out of his character, his discovery of a new possible career path and the film’s gradual shift to action and cynicism, there aren’t any dead spots or moments where you might question the film’s direction. It’s not due to any attempt to dull the audience’s senses through too many fast paced cuts or loud obnoxious songs, but simply because the damn thing is so incredibly engaging from start to finish.

Lou is a con man and thief who seems to get most of his ideas and conversation points from Internet education videos. After a few of his failed attempts at getting work (using his “selling skills”), he stumbles one night on a car accident scene and witnesses some freelance videographers taking footage of the wreckage and carnage. He learns that you can make money doing this by selling the videos to TV stations. He asks the videographer Joe (Bill Paxton) for a job and is rebuked. Being the “hard working individual” that he is, he decides to go it alone and buys himself a cheap camera (from the proceeds of a theft). Of course he makes a mess of it initially, but Lou has a unique skill – he learns from his failures and builds on them. After getting a sale with one of the stations, he starts to develop a relationship with the news producer Nina (Rene Russo) and becomes more aggressive at getting the kind of footage she wants. Knowing that “if it bleeds, it leads”, he gets a police scanner, an assistant named Rick (a great and very entertaining turn by Riz Ahmed) and aims for success.

As he gets better at it and even beats Joe at his own game, the confidence begins to build and the film picks up steam. He turns Joe down flat when he’s offered a partnership with him, spouts corporate platitudes to Rick (of particular note is his “performance review” to Rick which is both hysterical and depressing because of how accurate it mimics a corporate training seminar) and gets himself a bright red Mustang. When he manages to get to a crime scene at a private residence ahead of the police, he doesn’t hesitate to enter the house and get fresh footage of the victims lying in their own pools of blood. He also happens to get the criminals on tape as they flee, but he holds on to that video for his own purposes and doesn’t even share it with the police. One might say that his moral fibre is of the flexible variety. Things escalate at this point and the film has numerous scenes of delicious tension and one major set piece of action so perfectly created that the audience at my screening deservedly broke into spontaneous applause at its conclusion (it’s so good that you don’t realize you’ve been gripping your chair the whole ride). The film has little good to say about U.S. TV journalism, but does so in a manner that still manages to find an insightful point of view. It’s not a happy one, but what news story is these days?

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David Brook
Admin

I liked this a lot too, although it was occasionally a bit too ridiculous. The end in particular didn’t quite settle with me. The loose ends didn’t seem tied up satisfactorily. I enjoyed it immensely though and it felt very original, albeit with hints of other films in there – King of Comedy sprang to mind a lot.

Rick Vance
Guest

It is strange how this and Gone Girl come out while all the stuff swirling online is swirling this being about entitlement and self-obsession taken to the extreme.

Great movie.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

Gone Girl and NightCrawler are two of the best Wide Release films this year. Birdman is up there too. Fall Movie Going Season is shaping up just fine, with Interstellar and Inherent Vice on the way…

Gerry
Guest

SPOILER ALERT FOR NIGHTCRAWLER *****SPOILER ALERT FOR NIGHTCRAWLER *****SPOILER ALERT FOR NIGHTCRAWLER *****SPOILER ALERT FOR NIGHTCRAWLER *****

I thought the opening of Nightcrawler was very economically written, and the reference to the TV news organiser being in charge of the vampire shift was mildly clever given what most people in the film were doing, but it then proceeded to be a slow, overlong way of telling a reasonably slight and not profound or original film.

There was nothing compelling about it’s photography or sound design apart from a couple of brief high speed driving bits, which weren’t that exciting.

I thought Riz Ahmed was very good given his smallish role as one of the two the voices of reason, as was Bill Paxton. It’s nice to see Ahmed starting to build a Hollywood career after his excellent lead in 2010’s Four Lions.

I didn’t think it tore up any new ground as a character piece either, and overall I was very disappointed with it after all the buzz it attracted at TIFF. This could easily have been an episode or two in a TV cop show. I don’t feel the need to see it again.

The previews I saw before the film, for The Drop and The Imitation Game didn’t look great either. I really hope I’m proved wrong. I rely on films like Nightcrawler and it’s ilk to be a tonic after the debilitating effects of most of Hollywood’s mainstream output. After the very unsatisfying Nightcrawler I definitely need a pick me up.

Poze
Guest

Nightcrawler seems like a satire to modern television news about how they choose their leads or often seek for more ratings by entertaining their viewers rather than aim straightly to the facts. But there is a much interesting story beneath here and that is the main character, Louis Bloom. The guy that easily manipulates people with his sinister tricks of persuasion. Everything else may just be the natural world of crime and accidents, but in the eyes of this character, the experience is made far stranger and oddly fascinating. This provides a compellingly menacing and provoking piece of commentary which results to such engrossing film.

What the plot mostly does is to fully absorb the viewers into the character of Bloom by studying his sociopathic behavior and the words coming out from his mouth. He is a charming young man with a dark intention hidden behind his grins. He pushes the limits of the law and his own safety, only to accomplish on what he must do in the job, even if it risks many people’s lives. The actions of this antihero is ought to feel terrifying on how it affects to both the business he’s working on and the society he is watching. The media’s side however is more of a picture of cynicism on how they broadcast the scariest stories of the city, giving the people fear so they could earn more viewers out of the concern. It just breaks down on how the evil of their success is disguised as their own ethics.

The filmmaking perfectly captures their night’s work. You couldn’t clearly see the scenario they shoot unless you watch them on a video footage. The violence and peril they witness are shown without any hint of sympathy, since they only use them for the news show. The horror of these gritty scenes once again belongs to the nightcrawler. Jake Gyllenhaal is one of the biggest highlights here. His character obviously has the personality of a psychotic villain; he is mostly bluffing, and by the dashing enthusiasm he shows to the people around him, you probably may not know when his inner total madness will burst out from his frightening eyeballs, and that provides more tension than you expect. This is one of the Gyllenhaal performances that will be remembered for his career.

Out of common sense, this story may lead its main character to a moral about how much he is taking this job too far, probably destroying his humanity. But no, this guy is relentless, almost inhumane, and his style in fact helps his career grow bigger, which turns out we are actually rooting for a villain. And that probably pictures to some oppressive ambitious beings out there behind some system. This is where things go in the end, bringing an outcome to a social satire. You can spot a lot of relevance even when some of the situations get a little out of hand. Nightcrawler is something else than a sentiment, what we must focus here is Lou Bloom: a new, possibly iconic, movie vigilante, except the only skin he is purposely saving is himself and his career.

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