NIGHTCRAWLER Review

Ladies and gentleman, Jake Gyllenhaal has more than arrived and he is here to stay. The actor, who first entered our field of vision at the age of nineteen in October Sky has been doing solid work for years now with only a few misguided aspirations derailing what is just now beginning to shape a truly credible reputation. While Bubble Boy and The Day After Tomorrow stick out as truly awful and something of a guilty pleasure, the diamonds in the rough that are Jarhead, Brokeback Mountain and Zodiac give us more proof than necessary that we are messing with a force to be reckoned with. After making one more misstep with the understandable but overly calculated Prince of Persia Gyllenhaal turned his career around and hasn't looked back. Taking roles based purely on how much they interest him and what he could possibly do with the character rather than for any bigger reasons having to do with career direction or popularity (he dropped out of the guaranteed holiday musical hit, Into the Woods, for this film) Gyllenhaal has made Source Code, End of Watch, Prisoners and Enemy. Each of these films vary in genre and personality from both an acting perspective and what they bring to the table as far as entertainment value is concerned, but in Nightcrawler Gyllenhaal takes everything a little further, he amps everything up a notch higher and delivers a performance that makes every other performance seem like a prelude to this master class of ambition and insanity. Going through the actors filmography will allow you the realization that despite the fact we recognize Gyllenhaal as a reliable face, an old friend and an actor that typically delivers the goods-it is this film and this performance that will make him stand above the rest as exceptional. Gyllenhaal is clearly not just a one-off in the department of stirring performances with the nervous ticks and loner act that his Prisoners character clung to so strongly. Instead, he is an actor that knows how to disappear into a role by understanding not only the motivations that drive a character, but the importance of the art that composes them literally and figuratively. As Louis Bloom, a man with drive and passion to spare, Gyllenhaal is a beast of unforgiving endeavors that see him go from a driven young man to a man driven purely by the need to feel he belongs. Nightcrawler is a shocker of a ride, but in the scenes that make it all work it is Gyllenhaal doing the heavy lifting.

Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) finds a mentor of sorts in Nina Romina (Rene Russo).
We first meet Bloom as he puts on his guise positioning himself as a hard-working and loyal potential employee to the man who owns a scrapyard with whom he just sold stolen materials. Bloom is a moocher, a vagrant who comes and goes in the cracks of Los Angeles where he scrounges up anything he can make a quick buck off of. After he finishes selling himself to the scrapyard owner (Marco Rodriguez) and the man dismisses him because he would never higher a thief it sparks within the defiant young man the need to find something he is both talented at and can do on his own. On the drive back to his apartment Bloom is witness to a car wreck where a news crew led by Joe Loder (Bill Paxton) is first on the scene; catching the tragedy as it unfolds in front of them. There is no reservation in the thoughts that quickly flood Bloom's mind. We can see how he almost immediately craves the rush that Loder and his crew are getting from following the police scanner to the scene of the crime and getting as close as possible. Bloom will do the news stations one better though, he'll be willing to go further than anyone else. After jacking a bike and pawning it for a cheap camera and scanner of his own Bloom proves just how far he is willing to go by not only showing up late to the same scene as another freelancer, but taking his lead from him and selling his more intrusive footage to Nina (Rene Russo), the news director at a local station. Bloom's footage leads the morning newscast and with a taste of being the commodity Bloom is off to find the vitriol that drives viewers to stay glued to their televisions because cruelty is somehow pleasurable. He hires an assistant of sorts in Rick (Riz Ahmed) who helps him get multiple angles, but mainly navigates. As Bloom's crime scenes get bigger and his footage more intrusive his paychecks and his ambitions grow bigger as well. This can only lead to one getting in over their head and eventually tipping the scales against their favor, but Gyllenhaal is so confident and uncompromising as Lou that things only continue to become easier for him no matter what he has to sacrifice.

In many ways, Nightcrawler is a course in cynicism. We realize this early on because acrimony flows through everything our lead character says and does once he realizes the depths of depravity necessary to do what he's doing and realizing he has no genuine emotion to compare it to. It is in these realizations, that don't even come off as realizations, but more understandings about his own mentality that Gyllenhaal soars in bringing this emotionally detached and compulsively deranged character to life. For starters, there is the weight loss which is confusing at first because there is no obvious reason for Gyllenhaal to have lost so much weight off his frame or for Lou to be sickly thin, but dammit if that doesn't add to the creepiness of the character. Gyllenhaal has also chosen to grow his hair out just long enough to where he can slick it back as if trying to look professional, but is so obviously trying that it is cloying. Add on top of this the attitude that writer/director Dan Gilroy (The Bourne Legacy) has embedded into Louis Bloom and the way Gyllenhaal brings it to life with his delivery and you have a performance that elevates everything else about your film even if it is already intriguing based on premise alone.

With Bloom, Gyllenhaal heightens the strong noir elements of the film and the commentary on both sensationalist journalism and modern corporate America. He does so by going from covering the news to creating it, setting it up to serve his needs best. There is nothing he nor Nina won't do to scratch an itch that only becomes further and further out of reach as the paychecks and the ratings go higher and higher. There is no consideration for the subject, only what they can personally gain from it thus blurring the depths to which they're willing to dive. Bloom is a man so straight forward in his goals, so morally and ethically corrupt to the point salvation is out of the question and so desensitized to what he is witnessing every night that he doesn't even realize how many barriers he is crossing and how far outside the societal norms he has fallen until he's forced to counteract them. What hooks us though is that we know he doesn't care. There are no lines, no restraints society can put on him if he refuses to accept them. That is what Lou believes and that is how he goes about getting what he wants.

Bloom convinces not only himself but partner Rick (Riz Ahmed) of his credibility.
In almost every aspect from which you can approach the film, it is a character study of the most fascinatingly disturbing mind. Bloom is a shameless psychopath of sorts and this is a movie more about him than the elements that surround him. That said, there is still a lot of other stuff going on that is impressive, if not for the fact this is Gilroy's directorial debut, but for how well everything comes together. Nightcrawler knows there isn't much of a narrative here beyond the obvious descent of Bloom falling deeper into the traps of exploiting his crime scenes that make him more concerned with shot composition than saving a life. We know the type of character that Russo's Nina is as we've seen her plenty of times before (which takes nothing away from Russo's performance, trust me), but Gilroy knows this is about his main character and the mood and tone he elicits wisely keeps the focus on that. There is some wonderful cinematography here by Robert Elswit (long-time collaborator of Paul Thomas Anderson) that seizes the atmosphere present in Los Angeles after dark that is reminiscent of something like Collateral. This adds a layer of electricity to the proceedings while the score from James Newton Howard is only present in the right moments as we come out of a shockingly vile act and are in need of some kind of polish. As both writer and director (with his brother John working as editor) Gilroy paces his film expertly, letting it build perfectly so that the deterioration of Bloom resonates throughout. The film culminates in a climax that sensationalizes its lead story to the point of artificiality rather than conveying the humanity and validity we count on our news programs to provide. To this point, we understand the full extent of the themes Gilroy is playing with while still being unable to look away from Gyllenhaal whose directness and delivery is so darkly humorous it is spine tingling. This is a movie of moods, no doubt, of particular positions even, but what audiences will come away with is the "weird ass way of looking at shit," that Gyllenhaal delivers with frightening confidence.