(2014 - Director: Dan Gilroy Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed)
The first half of Nightcrawler is serviceable. Robert Elswit’s cinematography looks as good as usual. Jake Gyllenhaal is convincing and gives his usual stellar performance. Dan Gilroy’s directing seems capable, considering he’s known for being a writer and not for being behind the camera.
But then there’s a point about halfway through this movie where it becomes another beast altogether.
This movie rests on the shoulders of Gyllenhaal. No offense to Bradley Cooper or Steve Carell, (whose performances were also phenomenal) but Gyllenhaal seems to be at another level here, and probably could/should have been nominated for an Oscar. His mannerisms, speech pattern, eye movements, and delivery all coincide to create such a scary and intriguing character. He’s the reason I felt invested for that first half. The story of news stringers who film crime scenes to sell to the highest bidding local news station seemed interesting enough. But I couldn’t help but be bored with the potential commentary about local news pushing shock stories and scare tactics rather than reporting important news. There’s plenty of that discussion in Nightcrawler, but nothing more than background noise. The meat of the story is Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal) and his power trip.
As Bloom goes from unemployed criminal to self-made businessman, it’s his negotiating tactics that prove to be the most interesting part of the film. He preys on people at their weakest moments to leverage his business, reputation, and ultimately, his power. He slowly builds a world where he always has the upper hand and final say. And if you somehow get leverage on Lou? Watch out. It doesn’t take long for Lou’s quirky/brilliant business savvy to work its way against you.
The stakes never cease to get higher. Which is why I think this script is solid. It’s a feature-length movie script. That may sound silly (most features have feature length scripts, duh) but a good story that is meant for a two hour run time is a rarity anymore – at least not in today’s TV age of writing. There’s no inkling that Nightcrawler crammed too much plot in and would have worked better as a mini-series. Maybe a truncated version could have worked as a short script. Maybe a 50 minute one-off. But the addition of Rick and Nina were the perfect counters to Louis’ personality, and made for great drama that escalated just enough to have a satisfying ending.
Once Lou starts to risk more by participating in the news stories rather than just documenting them, the story takes off. It gets good – real good. Gyllenhaal is a slow burn. You never know when he’ll break. The directing and action intensify. It takes a neo-noir story and transforms into a devilish thriller that will stand as one of the best of 2014.