Monday, November 17, 2014

Nightcrawler - 2014

"Nightcrawler" - 2014
Dir. by Dan Gilroy - 1 hr. 57 min.

Official Trailer #2

by Clayton Hollifield

I hate to discuss the advertising of a film, but "Nightcrawler" is a perfect example of making really awful trailer, and then coming up with one that nails the film completely.  When I saw the first trailer, it was focused around the main character and this stupid line he says, apparently over and over and over in the movie, but there's not much more to take away than the guy's a bit creepy, out of control, and has an awful catchphrase.  I wasn't at all interested in seeing that film.  When the second trailer came out, it was clear that this was a thriller, centered around a conniving, scheming, disingenuous creepy little bastard, and that some cool things were going to happen.  That's the movie that I wanted to see, and I can say that it accurately represented the actual film.

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a sort of bottom-feeder in Los Angeles, although there's no explanation of where he comes from, or how he got there.  He's ambitious, self-educated, has a rap, and is looking for a career, while he's stealing fences and manhole covers to sell for recycling.  And there's something slightly off about him.  He stumbles across a car-crash on the freeway in the middle of the night, at roughly the same time some "stringers" show up - they're freelancers who descend upon whatever awful happens in the middle of the night with their video cameras, and sell the resulting footage to whichever news channel is the highest bidder.  This is the perfect job for someone who has a blurry moral compass, and who is a night owl anyways, so Lou begins his job in earnest (getting yelled at by nearly everyone along the way).  Lou gets in with one of the programming directors, Nina (Rene Russo), and his ambition (and increasing skill at the job) put him in some questionable situations.

It's tough to talk about the questionable situations, because the twists and turns of a thriller kind of depend on surprising the audience.  But that aspect of the film works very well.  Lou exists on a slippery slope, and has large ambitions - as he puts it, he wants to be the guy who owns the station - and things end up with very large stakes at play.  On the whole, I liked the story quite a bit, and felt it got better as the movie went along.  In particular, the second half of the film is pure dynamite.  Once Lou's character is established and starts making moves, it's off to the races.

Probably the biggest takeaway from "Nightcrawler" is that Jake Gyllenhaal totally knocks this one out of the park.  This film is designed to support a virtuoso performance; nearly the entire thing hangs on the lead performance.  That's not to say that the story doesn't function; it does, but so do the plots of many thriller films.  The point of "Nightcrawler" is how the Lou Bloom character makes you feel as the film is hitting plot points, and Gyllenhaal does such an outstanding job here that the results are all over the map.  Even in the most important sequences, I was torn between rooting for him to succeed and knowing in the back of my mind that he didn't deserve to, and that what he was doing was acting out of a lack of moral fiber.  Lou's success at any point literally means watching what amounts to a psychopath climbing the ladder on his wishlist, and I was aware of that for the duration of the film.  In addition to Gyllenhaal's performance, both Rene Russo and Riz Ahmed (as Rick, Lou's somewhat hapless assistant) do an admirable job of grounding the story in their reactions to Lou.

"Nightcrawler" is one of the better new movies I've seen this year.  It's a tight, effective thriller that benefits from a good plot that serves as a great platform for Jake Gyllenhaal's entry for crazy dude of the year.  The other actors in the film hold up their end, and by the end of the film, I wasn't sure who or what I was rooting for.  Regardless of that, I was engaged and interested, and couldn't wait to see where things were headed.

4 / 5 - Theatre

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