Thursday, November 20, 2014

Review - Nightcrawler

Just a quick take on this one, before the deluge of prestige biopics and foregone Oscar nominees start creeping their ways into theatres. Speaking of creeping, Jake Gyllenhaal does his fair share of it in this slick thriller, in which he plays a ghastly parody of the self-made man.
Louis Bloom is a tenacious young go-getter who accurately pitches himself to prospective employers as a fast learner who's willing to do whatever it takes to get a job done and done well. Yet even the most positive corporate attitude isn't worth the paper it's printed on if nobody's hiring.

Ever the entrepreneur, Lou tries his hand at the nocturnal profession of nightcrawling, an ethically borderline job that has him tracking down violent crime stories and shooting video for the highest bidding news network. If Lou is one thing, he's driven.

But of course he isn't just one thing. Besides being driven, he's also psychotic, willing to go to absurd lengths to beat the competition (and the police) to the scene, however dangerous. Lou goes from being a messenger to being an agent of death.
writer-director Dan Gilroy's screenplay blends tone and genre in interesting ways, using noirish strokes to paint over a sneakily comic premise that's already pitch black itself. It isn't a satire insomuch that the extremes to which Lou goes for a piece of footage are unrealistic (some journalists will tell you otherwise), but that his dedication to those entrepreneurial platitudes is often played for chuckles as much as it intends to put us on edge.

It's a difficult tone for Gyllenhaal to navigate, but he manages to pull it off. I cracked a smile more than a few times while still being deeply unsettled by this character. His nightcrawler really worms (no pun intended) his way under your skin, and stays there. He even dropped 30 pounds for the role, the contours of his now skeletal frame accentuated by the evocative lighting.

While it's clearly Gyllenhaal's show, special mention should be made for his costar Rene Russo, playing the unscrupulous TV news director who initially encourages Lou's disquieting fascination with nightcrawling.
Another star, albeit one behind the camera, is director of photography Bob Elswit. He shoots L.A. after dark as a unique vision of Hell, where police lights flicker in lieu of flames, overseen by a million evil eyes that take the shape of television screens. Here's hoping he can nab some awards love this season.

***1/2 out of ****

1 comment:

  1. This is kinda off-topic, but I had this weird dream the other day that you released our Award Nazi Awards early and gave Ice Age: Continental Drift the award for Best Original Screenplay.