Film Review No.385: Nightcrawler


Yeah, I know. It’s been, like, two weeks since my last review. I haven’t had much chance to watch films recently, what with Mad Max and Metal gear Solid V releasing in the same week. Thanks for that games publishers. Except Konami. FucKonami. Anyway, I got around to watching that Nightcrawler film everyone was raving about last year. I’m so behind the times. Why are you even reading this? Anyway, below is what I thought of this damn fine and mostly exceptional film. Ermm… I guess that sentence was also my thoughts on it… Click the link… please?

Nightcrawler follows one strange and sociopathic man named Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) who takes up the slightly murky career of the new stringer. His job being to film get on the scene of grizzly murders and accidents before anyone else and film the footage to sell to the local news. He takes pride in his work. Maybe a little too much pride as he begins to manipulate crime scenes and events in order to capture the perfect footage to raise his value to Rene Russo’s station production manager Nina Romina. He has a rivalry with another stringer played by Bill Paxton and takes on an intern in the form of Four Lions star Riz Ahmed. Suffice to say the filming of murder scenes and the lengths Bloom goes to in order to get just the shot he wants results in some pretty dark ground being trodden.

The film revolves around manipulation of the truth and the predatory nature of the media. So, yeah, I just explained the entire film’s themes in one sentence. That’s how good films can work. Pick a central theme, explore, twist and develop. Nightcrawler does all of this. It shows a hunger for the gruesome, a disregard for decency on the part of the news station and the wilful manipulation and ignoring of the truth in order to sell a particular story. At one point the home invasion murder story they’re showcasing is revealed to have been a drugs based mob hit. That is ignored and pushed back to later in the day to be revealed so that the focus can be on scaring the rich people of L.A. Into thinking their home could be invaded next. The makers of the news feed on the misery and suffering of innocent people in order to instil fear and paranoia in the public so they can’t turn away. The truth we see on the news is just the narrative of the day.

No you.

No you.

The film sets us up with a character in Louis Bloom who we really know very little about other than he’s a thief who has an uncanny ability to put people on edge. He’s a little slimy, quite creepy and very, very controlling. As the film moves on we really only get snippets of his past but we’re informed of everything we need to know so that by the film’s conclusion we’re left so engrossed by the characters behaviour that we’re really not done. Bloom is a compelling character indeed. He’s pure fricking evil of the unsettling kind, but you’ll want to keep watching for where he’ll go next. He’s like Patrick Bateman with the neurotic inflections of Richard Kind.

The supporting cast are all exceptional. For a start, it’s nice to see Rene Russo in a notable role. Yes, I know she was in both Thor films but that doesn’t count. I mean… did she even get to do much in those films? Here she’s a producer nearing the end of her contract desperate to prove her worth to the studio by bringing up her station’s ratings. If that means ignoring the more dubious aspects of Bloom’s methods to present the most attention grabbing news she can then she’s all for it. Riz Ahmed plays, possible, the first Muslim in an American film to not have a single reference to him being a terrorist, to be the butt of a anti-Islamic joke or to display any warped stereotypical character traits you so often see in U.S. films. Kudos to them for that. He’s great in his role as a constantly under pressure intern to Bloom who works as a more morally adjusted counterpoint to the suspect actions of his boss. It’s also great to see Bill Paxton in a good, well written role for once. It’s been quite a while and he nails it. He was entertaining in Edge of Tomorrow though, to be fair.

Using smoke Jack Cardiff style there.

Using smoke Jack Cardiff style there.

The film has a visual style that’s maintained fully from start to finish. I swear that’s all of about 4 lights in the film that aren’t on cars. Practically the entire film is set at night, which must have been a fun schedule for all involved, with the blackness warmed and cooled by brown and blue light. The brightest shot moments are often those of the crime scenes, all lit up for you to fully take in the violence so there can be no denying just how grim the job has become. Even just to look at Louis you almost can’t imagine him being someone who’d ever step outside during the day. He looks like he belongs in the night. Director Dan Gilroy keeps tension rumblings and leads us up to Bloom’s masterpiece of manipulation and an excellently shot car chase sequence. It’s one of the best car chases outside of a George Miller film.

Overall there is little to fault Nightcrawler on. I can see some people feeling a lack of conclusion. To them I say get an imagination and decide for yourself where it all went. I felt the film was perfectly conclusive but I do tend to prefer films that worry only about concluding the character’s arc more so than any larger events. Besides, the last half hour is so good I can’t imagine anyone walking away unsatisfied. Gyllenhaal is superb in the role and really does deserve to be having more people talking about him as a seriously great actor. I feel like he gets ignored a little. Maybe he’d be taken more seriously if he was in a Marvel film or something. That seems to be where actors have to go now to be noticed. Regardless, Nightcrawler is excellent. Give it a watch.


About lvl54spacemonkey

Just a dude who likes movies and games and has delusions of working in one of those industries. Write screenplays and work on short films in my spare time. Most of which never get finished. View all posts by lvl54spacemonkey

3 responses to “Film Review No.385: Nightcrawler

  • Ben

    This is a great film. Gyllenhall (not sure that’s spelt right?) is becoming an actor who makes really good film choices and gives you a reason to watch some random movies. I liked the point about Riz Ahmed as well.

    • lvl54spacemonkey

      He kinda churned out a bunch of varied performances around the time this was released. We discussed it a bit on the podcast last week, likening it to the Matthew McConaughey’s resurgeance, which obviously started with the cinematic masterpiece Tiptoes.

  • garethrhodes

    Great review. The seedy dark underworld of journalism has never been captured better than here. Gylenhaal is proving to be one hell of an actor, and it’s great to see Rene Russo doing something legitimately great.

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