Movie Review: Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler 3

Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a thief living in Los Angeles, struggling to eke out a living by scavenging whatever he can get his hands on. He engages in all manner of petty crime, from stealing copper fences to peddling stolen manhole covers.

On one of his night excursions, Bloom stumbles upon a car crash and a group of freelance cameramen capturing the scene. We see the gleam in Bloom’s eyes, when it clicks in his mind that this would be the perfect cover for his new career as a cameraman.

Nightcrawler 1

This premise sets the stage for Bloom, who grows into a cold and calculative businessman of sorts engaging in all sorts of petty misdemeanors. The capturing of news from car accidents to gun robberies in the middle of the night parallels Bloom’s voyeuristic spiral and eventual disintegration of his psyche.

His footage is a lifeline for ruthless veteran news executive, Nina (Rene Russo), who is desperately clinging on to her job at a flailing news station. The interplay between the 2 characters leads to a dark and twisted relationship.

Nightcrawler 2

Gyllenhaal’s Bloom channels a dark charisma, characteristic of an urchin of Los Angeles’s backstreets. From his delivery of complex and lengthy lines (“You have to make the money to buy a ticket”), to his control of emotion and intensity, Gyllenhaal strikes the perfect balance in the portrayal of a sociopath character.

Physically, Gyllenhaal lost between 20 to 30 pounds for this film, in an effort to better emulate the animal that director Dan Gilroy says inspired the character of Louis Bloom – the feral coyote, a nocturnal scavenger native to Los Angeles. His weight loss is most pronounced in his face, resulting in sunken pools around his eye sockets and tightly stretched skin around his cheekbones.

Nightcrawler 4

Notice the similarities in Gyllenhaal’s performance in Nightcrawler to Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver. Both movies feature slightly psychopathic main leads, and offer audiences a performance that can be creepy.

Setting the story in night-time LA is also no accident on director and scriptwriter Dan Gilroy’s part. The dark and sinister backdrop reflects Bloom’s character’s own inner thoughts and state of mind, one that is constantly dark and brooding. Crime, violence and chaos may be taking place right in the next street, and you might not even be aware of it.

The pace and development of the story is also one that deserves praise. Gilroy manages to infuse just the right amount of action and tension into what may seem at first glance an unexciting premise: a man with a camera. However, from shoot-outs to car chases, the audience is always given some form of action in the appropriate amount, keeping them on the edge of their seats.

This is further enhanced by the cinematography credits to director of photography Robert Elswit. When the scene is intense and chocked with action, the camera is by Bloom’s side, allowing the audience to witness the action first hand, while in slower scenes, the shots are more balanced allowing the audience to fully appreciate the emptiness of Bloom’s apartment or the sweeping LA lights.

Nightcrawler 5

Nightcrawler is a well-rounded movie nominated for several upcoming awards, including the Independent Spirit Awards. It has also already been declared as a top 10 film in 2014 by the National Board of Review. Dark and twisted with a complex story of one man’s warped psyche, it’s a must-see movie before the year closes.

Rating: 4/5

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed and Bill Paxton

Running Time: 117 minutes

Rating: PG13

Released: November 27