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November 5, 2014

4

Nightcrawler

by Franz Patrick


Nightcrawler (2014)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Standing out almost immediately in “Nightcrawler,” written and directed by Dan Gilroy, is the way nighttime hovers like a thick gloom in downtown Los Angeles—beautiful, curious, eerie, and dangerous all rolled into one vivid dream of a filmmaker with a keen eye for not only what looks good on screen but also how certain images, framed just right, can allow the audience to feel or think a certain way. In this sense, the picture is an achievement in presentation and execution. It is made for people who crave looking closely at things, just like the main character played exceedingly well by Jake Gyllenhaal.

Louis Bloom comes across a traffic accident after being told that he is not a person worth hiring long-term because he is a thief. What catches his eye is not the accident itself but the man holding a camera at the scene, filming every bit of detail that might be considered profitable. Louis learns that such footages can be sold to news stations. The more intense or important a footage, the higher the pay. Louis hopes to cash in.

The film is about a man driven by an obsession. However, it does not mean that Louis can easily be classified as a Freak-of-the-Week just because we can almost always guess correctly which course of action he intends to take given a high-risk, high-yield opportunity. One might argue that he is driven by money while others might claim he craves fame. Some might say he has found a passion but the need to sustain it has gone to an extreme that we wonder if it is unhealthy. There is evidence supporting all of these hypotheses.

What is so interesting is how Gyllenhaal monitors his character’s responses like clockwork that it is almost Hitchcockian. Louis appears very calm most of the time that even the more intense events do not invoke a reaction out of him. I wondered if he had SPD—schizoid personality disorder—and, if so, to what extent the disorder has taken over throughout the course of the picture. Or maybe from the moment we meet him, the condition is already established and no true character arc is ever truly captured. When his character does react, it is more like watching an implosion—so quiet but deafening in its power.

One is likely to read statements that watching the film requires a lot of patience. I’m not entirely certain if such a disclaimer is accurate. While the writer-director is confident enough to take the time and allow the scenes to unfold, there is great entertainment in the escalation of tension.

Particularly suspenseful is when Louis creeps up the driveway of an affluent family, enters the mansion, then comes across a crime scene that is dangerous and disturbing. I caught myself shuffling in my seat because it felt like at any second, everything could go terribly wrong. Louis may be unlikable or downright detestable, his actions may be morally gray or lacking morals completely, but one thing is certain: I did not want him to get punished or, worse, “learn a lesson”—a tired avenue that has been traversed so many times, it’s worse than stale.

“Nightcrawler” is well-acted, paced in such a way that we cannot help but be curious at what is happening and what is going to happen, and photographed with a confidence that we feel we are experiencing the filmmaker’s vision raw. It takes a lot of risks with its character, subject, and scope but just about every decision feels right for the material. I am always on the lookout for movies that will or should be remembered decades from now. “Nightcrawler” may belong in one or both categories.

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nov 5 2014

    I found this film so disturbing which is why I would recommend someone watching it. I was captivated by this man’s desperation and eventual pathological ascent. his I saw it at its premier L.A. screening with Dan Gilroy. I find the truth of it so horrifying. The reality of news broadcast now being entertainment first and news second is pretty awful. But funny enough Gilroy claimed the film’s perspective to be neutral. He may be right. It indeed reflects the reality that the path toward the American Dream can be ugly, down right sinister. Louis is rewarded for his unrelenting aspirations and frightening actions in the end. Not necessarily unlike real life.

    Reply
  2. GaryLE828
    Nov 5 2014

    Great write-up. Liked the movie. Loved Jake’s performance! The movie ran into danger of becoming a bit redundant at times, but Jake’s performance was strong enough to keep you on edge for the duration. You never knew what was around the corner, and you know that’s what I look for in a thriller. :)

    Reply
  3. Nov 5 2014

    Totally creepy, which is definitely thanks to Gyllenhaal and what he puts into this character. Good review Franz.

    Reply
  4. Dec 6 2014

    Fantastic film!

    Reply

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