Nightcrawlers: freelance video photographers who stalk the streets of LA at night, cameras at the ready, searching for breaking news stories to film and sell as footage to the news show with the highest buying price. It’s a cutthroat business where the first on scene is the one to get the shot, and young entrepreneur Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is just starting out. After his first successful night on the job, he partners up with morning news director Nina (Rene Russo), who runs a local news show on the “vampire shift”, and enlists the help of down-and-out youth Rick (Riz Ahmed) as a second pair of hands. Driven to succeed, Lou throws everything he has into the work, including his sense of morality and, caught up in the momentum of it all, his role in the LA crime scene becomes far less passive.
There’s never been much doubt about Jake Gyllenhaal’s skill as an actor, but Nightcrawler is just another reminded of how phenomenal he can really be. While usually starring as the protagonist and hero of his films, in Nightcrawler Gyllenhaal gets to try on something a little darker and a little shadier, acting more as the antihero. Lou is an incredibly well developed, intriguing and deeply flawed character; a strange, but uber intelligent guy who appears as if he might have Asperger’s or OCD. Jobless, but determined not to be, Lou is fast to learn the ways of the nightcrawler, fast to gain power in the industry, and fast to abuse it. Gyllenhaal manages to pull this off flawlessly, backed by equally strong performances by Rene Russo as hard-ass Nina who never let’s anyone push her around, and Riz Ahmed as the timid but lovable Rick.
There is something fascinatingly twisted about this movie and its exploration of the ethicality of the media industry, or the lack thereof. There is really no other movies like it, and you become so captivated by Lou’s downward spiral, continually questioning where to draw the line between humanity and total insanity. It is Dan Gilroy’s first foray into directing, and he does a magnificent job capturing the audience’s attention and keeping them engrossed for the film’s two hour run time, which concludes in a suspenseful climax that will have your nails bitten raw. Seasoned cinematographer Robert Elswit encapsulates the night scene of LA perfectly, a setting that matches the strange and transfixing nature of the film.
If there was anything bad to say about Nightcrawler, it would be that it progressively becomes more and more far-fetched in terms of plot, but in a way this exaggeration is for effect, really driving home just how easily human morality can go wrong. Thematically, Nightcrawler is an deeply interesting film, and backed by some powerhouse performances and an incredibly original story, is sure to resonate with audiences. It has definitely resonated with me.
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