Jake Gyllenhaal is really underrated. He’s done a lot of solid stuff and Nightcrawler looked like it would definitely be another great addition, giving him a very interesting script to go off… and some are already talking about potential Oscar nominations for him. So did it live up to that sort of hype?
Gyllenhaal stars as a thieving creep named Louis Bloom. When the movie opens, we meet him as he’s stealing things like wire fencing and pothole covers to sell to metal shops. On his way home, he sees a traffic accident and there are guys recording it and trying to get footage for the nightly news. Bloom realizes he can do this on his own, so he begins a journey of finding accidents and crimes as they happen and then selling that footage. Things begin to spiral out of control when Bloom oversteps his bounds and finds himself at a volatile crime scene before the police even get there. Bill Paxton stars as a rival “nightcrawler” while Rene Russo is the women at a local news station that Bloom sells his footage to.
Gyllenhaal absolutely transforms into this role, resembling a different sort of character than we’ve ever seen from him. At points he comes off as just kind of misunderstood and someone you could root for… but then there are moments, just glimpses, into his mind and it is terrifying. He’s the scariest type of character because you can’t understand why he does the things he does. And we’re stuck watching his story unfold, in all its violent and terrifying glory.
The story that we’re told here is fascinating because it is so real yet something we’ve never really thought about. Who gets the footage of a burning building that we see on the news? It’s akin to the paparazzi but this is much more diabolical, as Gyllenhaal’s Bloom sneaks past police tape to get grisly images of murder victims. It’s terrifying yet something we can’t turn away from.
Visually, the film is also very engaging. Los Angeles is just so interesting in movies, with all its lights and colors. It reminded me a little bit of Collateral aesthetically, since this movie also takes place primarily in a car driving through Los Angeles at night.
What didn’t work?
While Gyllenhall was astounding here, it’s also a hard character to root for and I don’t know if this movie walks that fine line as delicately as some other recent films. Some of these moments are terrifying (not by scaring you but by being so potentially realistic) but we never really have a hero to root for here, so some viewers won’t have a character to relate to and might find that frustrating.
Nightcrawler is a fantastic character piece about a profession that actually exists, yet we don’t ever acknowledge. There are some great thriller moments and a very satisfying action conclusion. Gyllenhaal’s performance is one of his best and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Best Actor nomination. This might be a hard movie for some people to watch, as it’s dark and terrifyingly authentic, but if you want to see some stellar acting and a fascinating story, you shouldn’t miss Nightcrawler.