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.
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.