I just wrote a review for the movie Interstellar where I remarked on how Mathew McConaughey seemed to come out of nowhere with getting serious roles. Well the same could be said for Jake Gyllenhaal. I feel like he went from being overlooked to suddenly being viewed as a powerhouse actor.
It’s funny, as I mentioned I just wrote the review for Interstellar, a nearly 3 hour movie and it was easy. Yet Nightcrawler clocks in just under 2 hours and I find myself struggling to write it. Make no mistake, this has nothing to do with the quality of the film. This is an excellent movie that I have no problem highly recommending. The problem with writing a review for this movie is that there are so many little things in this film that I think I would have rather done an audio review and had a discussion than writing it out. But you work with what you have.
First off, this movie is called Nightcrawler and no it has nothing to do with the blue, teleporting mutant member of the X-Men. It actually refers to the amateur film crews that rush to the scenes of police/EMS activity to film the scene and then attempt to see their footage to news stations. Think of them like ambulance chasers with cameras. There’s definitely a lot of questions about morality when it comes to these “nightcrawlers” and the TV stations that buy their footage. The more tragic and horrific the footage, and the easier it is to spread fear particularly in the suburbs, the more money that can be made off of this footage.
Enter Louis Bloom.
Think of Bloom as Super Creepy Rob Lowe from the Direct TV commercials but with ambition. He actually doesn’t start off as a nightcrawler but just some guy jobless guy who is stealing copper and scrap metal to sell. He is looking for a job that he can get and work his way up in. After being denied a job he comes across an accident and witnesses Joe Loder (Bill Paxton) and his partner filming it and learns there can be money in this. This movie really should be called “The Rise of Louis Bloom” but since Louis Bloom isn’t technically a real person, it wouldn’t have made much sense to folks. But the intricacies of the character of Louis Bloom is what makes this movie so good. When you first meet him you don’t know whether you’re rooting for him or against him. You can’t tell if he’s just ambitious and doing whatever he can to self educate himself and move up the ranks or if he’s really some weird, sicko. There’s even times at the beginning of this movie where he seems completely out of his league with what he’s trying to do. But Bloom is ambitious and a fast learner and for lack of a better word, ruthless. That’s what makes this film so brilliant. The “nightcrawlers” in this movie strategically pick and frame their shots in order to fit the sensational story they know they can sell to the tv networks. The character of Louis Bloom is written and shot in the same way to give us the image and story of his character is trying to portray to even one. But we’re given just enough to know it’s not the whole story. We’re never given the whole story but we’re given just enough to know that he’s not some innocent guy who just wants to be a good, hard worker. Honestly if this was another movie, Bloom would be a sociopath serial killer with bodies in his basement. And honestly, after seeing this movie I’m still not 100% sure that’s not true. At one point when Bloom is asking about the type of footage that is best for trying to sell to the station, he keeps harping on “bloody right?” It’s almost as if he gets off on seeing others in pain or in tragic situations. He’s also one of those guys who doesn’t take “no” for an answer or not being first well. And he doesn’t have a problem with crossing any moral line to get what he wants.
The acting in this movie is fantastic. Jake Gyllenhaal does most of the heavy lifting here and as I mentioned before he’s incredible in this film. Gyllenhaal gives the character of Bloom this disarming charm that helps explain how his character rises to the top so fast. Bloom’s charm and seemingly innocent,almost childlike wonder makes a lot of people trust him or ignore him as not being a threat until it’s too late. This is particularly true of Rene Russo’s character, Nina Romina, the news director for the “vampire shift” at the station Bloom sells his videos to. Romina has her own motives for buying the graphic and boundary pushing videos Bloom sells but she doesn’t realize how much of a “deal with the devil” she’s making. At one point you realize she’s putting ambition and career over not only her morality but her own personal best interests. One interesting character is Rick, play by Riz Ahmed. He starts off as Bloom’s “intern” and “works his way up” in Bloom’s “company”. Or at least that’s what he thinks. See, Rick is just a desperate guy who clearly isn’t as smart as Bloom and just needs a job. And Louis Bloom recognizes that and uses him as cheap labor to get himself ahead. See, in addition to being a natural at picking graphic shots, Bloom is also good at recognizing people that are desperate and that he can exploit for his own needs. And by the time they realize this, it’s already too late, he has them trapped already. We get a lot of insight into just how controlling and messed up Bloom is in the head with the way he treats and interacts with Rick and Nina. Oh and Bill Paxton is in this movie as Joe Loder, a more well established nightcrawler who ends up being direct competition for Bloom. Everyone knows how I feel about Bill Paxton and while he doesn’t get a ton of screen time, whenever he does he’s great.
Not surprisingly this movie is very visually gripping. It’s one of the things that adds to this movie. The videos Blume takes not only get a reaction from the other characters but also the audience watching the movie. There’s plenty of times when you’re saying to yourself “Surely he’s not going to film that.” Then he does and you’re a bit sickened by it. An that’s all before Bloom starts crossing the line and attempting to manipulate scenes and situations to get more profitable shots. There’s also some very high intensity moments. There’s a pretty intense shoot out as well as an intense police/car chase scene.
It’s amazing that this is Dan Gilroy’s first shot at directing a movie. I can’t think of a better way for a director to debut than with a film as good as Nightcrawler. If there is anything I could find in the negative is that maybe all the characters, particularly the secondary ones, aren’t fleshed out completely. But I really feel as though that is by design. Bloom is the focus here and even though we don’t get intricate details on his background, what we do get is enough to know he’s not right.
This is an excellent movie. I can’t praise Gyllenhaal’s performance enough and it’s worth the price of admission alone. But there’s also a pretty good story here. Nightcrawler is definitely something you should check out.