While some might say this is a late review―and it is if one considers film’s theatrical release―Nightcrawler sprang onto Blu-Ray only a couple of weeks ago. I have been anticipating this title for quite some time as I sadly didn’t have the opportunity to view it in October, and finally got the chance recently. What follows is one of the more intriguing films I’ve experienced in quite some time.
Content Guide for Nightcrawler
Nightcrawler is Rated R for violence including graphic images, and for language. (MPAA)
Violence – Character places himself into crime scenes, car crashes, capturing gory footage of dead bodies and victims of gunshot(s). The violence here is not nearly as disturbing as our main character’s thoughts about the violence he’s recording.
Sex – character negotiates a deal with a woman to be his active sex partner. Only referenced.
Language – Frequent uses of “f—k”, “s—t”, “a—hole”, “g—damn”
In Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a quiet fellow who only speaks when spoken too, and is not afraid to say what’s on his mind. From his introductory scene, it’s clear that not all is well with Bloom, and what follows is a deeply disturbing but highly entertaining thrill ride as Bloom, looking for work―and more importantly some cash―discovers that nightcrawling is a legitimate way to make a living. Nightcrawlers follow police scanners, geared with cameras and vans ready to assault news stations of the city with their footage of crime scenes, accidents, and anything that might make for a good show.
Now available on Blu-Ray/DVD
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Gyllenhaal in the lead presents what many have called his best performance to date, and I am one of those people. Nightcrawler is complex, but not a headache to watch, Lou Bloom is a madman straight out of Twin Peaks fan fiction, with a dash of Jack Nicholson’s performance in The Shining. Gyllenhaal is the focus and heart of the film, and he is a delight to watch. Thankfully, none of the supporting cast is overshadowed from such a wonderful lead performance (Riz Ahmed is great as Rick), and they all play their respective roles well.
First time director but veteran writer Dan Gilroy does an exceptional job at telling this story. What’s great about Nightcrawler is how upfront, yet mysterious it is. While the film focuses its attention on Lou, it doesn’t reveal everything about him, only adding to the puzzle pieces that build up as the film progresses. Gilroy has penned a script that boldly dives into the ethics of journalism and the current state of media consumption.
From the opening shot, Nightcrawler is a beautiful motion picture. Taking place entirely in downtown Los Angeles, the film is defined by night skies lit with car lights and convenience stores. Shot with Arri Alexa XT cameras, cinematographer Robert Elswit (The Town; There Will Be Blood) captures the grit and dark charm of Los Angeles down to the faintest shadows. This is a superb film to look at, and should be studied for the way it beautifully depicts nighttime, as most of the film takes place after the sun has set.
Commendable as well are the stunts in the film, which rely on practical effects and some great stunt drivers. Veteran composer James Newton Howard provides the film its haunting score, particularly the main theme of the picture, which is given more weight as you progress into the film’s two-hour runtime. Some of the edits in the film dragged out a little too much, and at times I felt that a tighter dialogue scene here or there would’ve added to the tension in the narrative.
This film wants you to think of that last video you saw online of someone getting hurt, or that last news story you watched where a building was up in flames, and to think of the real people that were suffering for your entertainment. Is there a different reaction from a viewer if they witness something horrifically violent from in front of a screen as opposed to actually witnessing it? Do we even take violence as seriously as we once did, because of being desensitized? Should the media be so open about the personal lives of those they report about? What good is a news source that only aspires to achieving ratings, as opposed to legitimate, important information?
It’s not my duty to answer these questions―that’s for you the viewer to decide. I will say this much: it is wonderful to see a film that leaves me squandering with my own ethical views. The greatest films are the ones that speak to us, whether that be an intellectual or emotional experience. I experienced a great time―those who enjoy a good crime thriller will too―and appreciate the wonderful questions the film presents. Nightcrawler asks these honestly disturbing questions, perhaps not so we can scoff at the madman of Lou Bloom, but so we can recognize the madman found in all of us.
+ Smart social commentary + Jake Gyllenhaal + Great cinematography + Genuine Suspense
- Minor Editing Flubs - Mysterious lead can be frustrating for those who prefer a traditional, straightforward narrative
The Bottom Line
With as much tension as it has social commentary, Nightcrawler is a thought-provoking journey alongside the mind of a madman, thanks to an excellent performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. Fans of crime thrillers and good cinema in general will not want to miss out on this smart story that features plenty of important ethical questions regarding media, consumerism, and violence.