Nightcrawler- A Review

Dan Gilroy directs Jake Gyllenhaal in the creepy crime drama Nightcrawler based on the life of a desperate and unemployed man who uses his resourcefulness to bring breaking news stories to crime obsessed news networks.

The story begins with Lou Bloom played by the brilliantly creepy Jake Gyllenhaal is stopped mid-heist while he is trying to make away with the wire-fence, using his strangely engaging way of talking (think Aaron Sorkin style dialogue but delivered by someone on valium in slow dulcet tones) he comes near and then overpowers the security guard and makes away with his watch.  When trying to make a sale to a building construction manager he tries to sweet talk him into a job but when he is called a thief he just smiles and walks away. This is Lou Bloom a perfectly nice guy but you get the sense that something isn’t quite right with him.

A chance encounter with a freelance videographer sets Lou on a path which drives the rest of the movie. When trying to make the sale of his first video of a gruesome gun shooting he meets Nina played ably by Rene Russo. Nina is the ratings hungry morally corrupt news producer of what Lou calls as the Vampire shift of the lowest ranking LA news channel.  But Nina soon realizes that Lou could be the ratings golden goose she has been looking for.jake gyllenhaal rene russo nightcrawler

At under 2 hours the movie is crisply written and directed. It takes us on a journey as we learn more about Lou and his ambitions and get increasingly creeped out by the silly grin permanently plastered on his face. During the course of the movie we see Lou talking like an audiobook on management, a self-help book, A Hallmark Card (Friends are the gift we give ourselves) and a performance management cheat sheet that every manager will be familiar with.

Lou is assisted in his twisted venture by Rick played by Riz Ahmed, a homeless guy who answers an Ad by Lou and ends up being his police-code-decrypter and GPS-navigator as Lou races through downtown LA to get to the scene of the crime. Rick plays a moral compass of sorts to Lou but is easily distracted by the prospect of making more money.

As Lou gets better at his job, you start seeing that this strange push-over of a man is no pushover infact. The scene at the Mexican restaurant while laugh-inducing is also particularly creepy as you start seeing what a dangerous man he really is.

Robert Elswit does a most fantastic job of cinematography as the director of photography. He shoots the breakneck pace at which Lou drives with a steady and unwavering precision. The masterful use of the Sodium filled yellow street lights to give the entire landscape a ghoulish glow and flashing red and blue of the police cars to reflect the dancing madness in the eyes of Lou is masterful indeed. In the hands of a lesser director, cinematographer combo  this could have ended up being a hand-held camera shot, nausea inducing chase-fest. But by taking us along for the ride Elswit puts us squarely in the middle of the action and the results are exceptional. At one point I was holding both hands on my head as Lou drives along a police car chase.  The music by James Newton Howard is subtle and understated and does the job perfectly of capturing the still of the night punctured by the crime scenes, those who perpetrated the crimes and those who work tirelessly to enforce the law.

Nightcrawler is an easy entertaining thriller with excellent acting and stunning visuals. But it is also a character study into what drives the people who blur the lines of journalistic ethics to feed the public greed for sensationalized news or perhaps even the paparazzi fueled celeb-obsessed culture of ours. This is a sensational movie for all the above mentioned reasons, which makes no compromises in its characters, its story or its execution.  Do not miss this one because with a relatively weak best actor field this one could be Jake Gyllenhaal’s ticket to the big ball.

Prisoners – A Review

Denis Villeneuve directs a stellar star cast of Jake Gyllenhaal, Hugh Jackman, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis Paulo Dano and Melissa Leo in Prisoners a dark and brooding tale of the kidnapping of two little girls and the aftermath that follows.

Villeneuve who directed the critically acclaimed Incendies the 2011 Canadian entry to Oscar under the foreign language category, creates a dark and depressing atmosphere that begs to ask the question how many creeps can one town hold. The story written by Aaron Guzikowski weaves a suspenseful drama that has you constantly holding your breath, biting you fingers and alternating between the edge of seat to the back of it with your eyes covered in horror.

Jake Gyllenhaal revisits the same playground that he made such an impact on in David Fincher’s Zodiac with his detective Loki character but gone are the clean cut boy scout good looks and mannerism instead he is more reminiscent of Viggo Mortensen’s character from Eastern Promises with his tattoos and the nervous tick of eye-blinking.  Hugh Jackman is rage personified as the father who has lost his daughter and the one viable lead suspect is let go because the police cannot bring charges on him.  Paulo Dano plays that creepy suspect who rides a RV that was parked near the house just before the girls disappeared.

Terrence Howard and Viola Davis play the parents of the other girl who gets abducted along with Jackman and Maria Bello’s daughter.  In supporting roles Howard, Davis and Bello are all very good but the surprise comes in the form of Melissa Leo who plays Dano’s Aunt. Just wait for the Third act of the movie to have your Jaws drop and you will know why Leo is known to sneak in award worthy performances when no one expects her to.

Roger Deakins arguably among the best working cinematographer in Hollywood is a genius behind the camera. With his masterful eye the tree barks and the snow tracks take on a life of their own. The movie is richly marinated in darkness and Roger uses every available blimp of light masterfully, the candle lights, the low incandescent bulbs, all throw lights that jump of the tried and creased face of Jackman to show a man driven insane by rage. The close up shots of the characters are unnerving and leave you in need of a shower because of how dirty it gets.

This is a slow meandering story that goes to places that you don’t expect it to. There are twists and turns that will shock and surprise you.  Hugh Jackman is in top form and Dano turns in a creepy performance that has you alternating between hating him to feeling sorry for him and Melissa Leo continues to surprise with her choice in picking roles that really allow her to sink her teeth into and turns in a fantastic performance that in any other year would be getting all the buzz for supporting role. Denis Villeneuve makes his Hollywood debut in fine form almost reaching the greatness of Zodiac and Mystic River. This is a movie not to be missed under any circumstance.