FlixChatter Review: Nightcrawler (2014)

NightcrawlerPosterSeems that I might be the last person who hasn’t seen Nightcrawler and I’m even gutted I didn’t see this on the big screen. There is something so mesmerizing and disturbing about this film which is in keeping with the theme of the gawker mentality that the small-screen media capitalize on.

Set in the nocturnal underbelly of the City of Angels, the film begins with a desperate but resourceful thief Lou Bloom who can’t seem to catch a break. That is until he witnessed an accident on a highway and came across a freelance camera crew (Bill Paxton) who film crashes, fires and any kind of mayhem, that a lightbulb went off in his head. Lou says several times in the film that he’s a fast learner and he’s not exaggerating. Within days of acquiring some camera equipment and a police scanner, Lou went to work and quickly sneaked his way into the dangerous and competitive world of night-crawling – these are the people who take pictures and film horrifying events to deliver them in time for the morning news.

Nightcrawler_LouBloom

“If it bleeds, it leads!”

That’s the mantra Lou lives by and he approaches his newfound profession in a mechanical precision, almost robotic way. He’s always been a methodical guy, he waters his plants, iron his shirt as he watches TV, there’s almost a certain regime if you will, in how he conducts his life. His work ethic doesn’t resemble as a human being, the way he approaches victims as if they’re nothing but soul-less objects for him to profit from. When he actually talks to a living-breathing fellow human, he also has this robotic quality in that he doesn’t see the person across from him as having any kind of emotion. His salesman-like delivery is both creepy and hilarious, in fact, Jake Gyllenhaal‘s gaunt, bug-eyed face still gives me the creeps days after I saw this film. I’m still astonished that Gyllenhaal wasn’t nominated, as it’s truly a tour de force performance. I read that the 35-year-old actor literally starved himself to play the role, losing 30 pounds as he visualized himself as a hungry coyote. His look definitely gave a certain realism to his character, but there’s more to it than that. His speech delivery and the precise mannerism of how Lou behaves, such as not blinking for a long period of time, really gets under your skin.

Nightcrawler_JakeG

As Lou continues to rise to the top, he took deliberate measures to get what he wants. Along the way he recruits a down-on-his-luck young man, Rick (Riz Ahmed), as his assistant. It’s appalling how Lou treats the hapless and homeless guy like dirt, but we shouldn’t be surprised that he does so, given what we know about him thus far. Lou seems to have met his match in Nina (Rene Russo), the beautiful older news director who buys Lou’s footage. But before she even realizes what happens, Lou backs her into a corner, figuratively and literally, as he feeds off her vulnerability and fear of working in such a notoriously competitive field. That entire scene at the Mexican restaurant gives me the heebie jeebies and the script is so taut that even without Lou so much as touching Nina, the whole scene still makes your skin crawl.

Nightcrawler_ReneeRusso

This is another astounding directorial debut in recent memory and would perhaps rate as one of the best debut by a screenwriter. Dan Gilroy co-wrote The Fall and The Bourne Legacy, which strangely enough wasn’t that great in terms of script, but here he shows not only his screenwriting chops, but also his talents behind the camera. The way he filmed mostly at night, there’s an eerie, haunting quality that adds to the suspense. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time even though there’s not that much action going on throughout.

The chase towards the end is utterly exhilarating not only because of the car chase itself, but the manic energy that Lou displays throughout. He proceeds to drive like a maniac despite Rick’s protest to slow down, and in a way we live vicariously through him in the way he views Lou. Unlike the preposterous car chases in movies like say, Fast & Furious, the scene is tinged with realism because even amidst all that action, Nightcrawler is still very much a character-driven film. When we think that the movie’s gone off the rails, Gilroy reminds us that Lou is still in control, for the detriment of those around him.

“What if my problem wasn’t that I don’t understand people but that I don’t like them?”

Nightcrawler_RizAJakeG

In this Indiewire article, Dan Gilroy joked following a screening that this is “…about the triumph of the human spirit…it’s a feel good film.” Very funny Dan, as nothing could be further from the truth. I was screaming at my TV during the finale and I think the director deliberately wants us to feel disturbed by the unsettling story. But with any kind of industry fueled by consumer demand, this film is as much a commentary on the TV news business as those who choose to watch these kinds of graphic coverage.

The night cinematography by Robert Elswit is excellent in its use of ambient lighting, it adds so much to the tone of the film. It’s definitely one of the best-looking films shot in L.A., right up there with Michael Mann’s Heat and Collateral. I have to mention again the superb acting by Gyllenhaal who hopefully will score an Oscar one day, but props also to Russo and Ahmed in memorable supporting roles. Nice to see Russo in top form and actually gets a role worthy of her talent. I was impressed by Ahmed in The Reluctant Fundamentalist and the British actor shows his amazing versatility playing an entirely different persona.

If only I had seen this film sooner, it’d definitely have a place in my Top 10 list. Nightcrawler is a brilliantly-crafted Neo-noir that has a lingering effect long after the end credits. The film was deservedly nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, written also by Gilroy. I think it merits at least a few more nominations in the acting category AND a Best Picture nod. It’s THAT good.

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What do you think of Nightcrawler?

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56 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: Nightcrawler (2014)

  1. I really liked this one Ruth mainly because of the amazing work from Gyllenhaal. The guy gave me favorite lead actor performance from last year. How was he not even nominated for an Oscar!?!?

    I liked Russo’s performance but I thought her character was a bit over-the-top. I know sensationalized news is a real thing but there were moments where she seemed to be too morally bankrupt.

    Everything else clicked for me. What a moody and unsettling film (and I mean that in the best of ways).

    1. Keith, what’s most interesting to me was how much the local news station promoted this on their morning news show upon release. KTLA’s (renamed KWLA in the film) interior newsroom scenes and exterior locations, as well as some their real newscasters, were extensively used. Especially since the film’s story doesn’t exactly frame them (or the industry) in the most flattering light. I guess any publicity, good or bad, is the best one. 😉

      1. Thanks for that trivia tidbit Michael. Yeah, definitely NOT a flattering light of the TV news industry. Similar to how Sunset Blvd painted the *dirty* reality of Hollywood studios!

    2. Hi Keith! Gyllenhaal gave the performance of his career here. It’s nuts to think he wasn’t nominated, that is bonkers! I also like Riz Ahmed here, and he got virtually no recognition.

      I think most people here are morally-bankrupt, I mean she appears as the *victim* but she really is as ruthless as Lou. So I guess they deserve each other. Yeah, it’s VERY unsettling, which is what they’re going for. I was so upset by that ending, OMG!

  2. Really loved this film. Fantastic review. You make loads of great points. I had no idea Gyllenhaal starved himself for the role. And when you think about it, there isn’t much action, but I was on the edge of my seat like you. If you get the chance, would be interested to see what you think of my review. We actually picked out the same quotes, and the same memorable scene.

    1. Hi Alex, thank you! It’s really a dedicated performance from Jake G., both mentally and physically. It was so tense at times I literally had to pause a bit to gain my composure. I’ll definitely check out your review!

    1. Hi Mark! I was afraid it’d be too gory but fortunately it’s not that bad. Jake G. is truly something here, he’s on a roll lately, good for him!

  3. Certainly a well-crafted film and with some very cringe-worthy moments that take your breath away. I also agree with the fact that this is Jake Gyllenhaal’s film, one that allowed him to give us his first truly great performance in an already impressive career made up of fine roles.
    As much as I wanted to love the film though, I stopped short of giving it high marks due to its self-conscious criticism of sensationalist news media and the very clear similarities with “Network”, from which it was clearly inspired.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Niels, I haven’t seen Network yet. I think the ‘self-conscious criticism’ you mentioned is deliberate, and it certainly made you think. There are surely a similar plot to this but what sets it apart is the way it was filmed and the phenomenal performance by the lead actor.

      1. Ruth you have to see Network. I highly recommend you put this atop your Blind Spot list. It’s considered one of the greatest scripts ever written Paddy Chayefsky’s script is a masterclass on how to write a monologue. It’s in my top 10 for sure. Way ahead of its time foreseeing the theatrical show that cable news has become today. Under the helm of Sidney Lumet it’s probably the greatest satire ever put on screen.

        Even though Network won for Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress it didn’t win Best Picture or Best Director. In a field of Network, Taxi Driver, All The Presidents Men and Bound For GloryRocky took Best Picture and Director. Sadly Lumet never won an Oscar for Directing despite having directed Twelve Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network and The Verdict. 😦

        Fun fact: Peter Finch, as Howard Beale, was the first actor to win a posthumous Academy Award for acting until Heath Ledger did it for The Dark Knight.

        The speeches were so iconic that Vince Gilligan used an excerpt from one in the pilot episode of AMC’s Better Call Saul. Brilliantly delivered by Bob Odenkirk channeling Ned Beatty.

        BTW I enjoyed Nightcrawler a lot. I can still see Jake’s bug eyes. LOL.

        1. Hello Dave! Oh yeah Network sounds great, definitely will put that on my next year’s Blindspot, or I might watch it this year, yet. Hopefully it’s on Netflix or Amazon prime. It’s nuts to think how some REALLY deserving directors never won an Oscar!

          Great trivia, I did not know about that posthumous Oscar for Peter Finch. I have a feeling you’d love Better Call Saul, that sounds right up your alley there Dave!

  4. I only skimmed through your review there Ruth, I’m going to rent this when it hits Redbox soon. After The Bourne Legacy, I wasn’t sure if the Gilroy brothers will churn out anything good. Glad to hear the other Gilroy made a good film since I think Tony is a one hit wonder.

    1. Hey Ted! I think you’d appreciate this one if you like noir films. Yeah, Bourne Legacy was pretty bad, but maybe Dan Gilroy should stick to original stories as he’s obviously a talented writer.

      1. Ted I think you’re being a little hard on Tony. While The Bourne Legacy was clearly a mistake (Matt Damon is the series) he’s still a pretty damn good writer. What with the original trilogy, Michael Clayton and even Dolores Claiborne… which was a pretty good adaptation of Steven King (still no one beats Darabont for Steven King adaptations). Basically anything with Bourne or ‘borne in it.

  5. Tom

    Heck yeah! 4.5/5 reels! I cannot agree more with that! This was a mesmeric bit of film from both Gilroy and his cast (i.e. a never-better Jake Gyllenhaal.) His lack of a nomination was an absolute travesty, wasn’t it?

    Great to read this article Ruth, really confirms this film was a special one.

    1. Hi ya Tom! Yes it’s an absolute travesty indeed, I think Jake G gave one of the best performances of the year. Glad we’re in agreement on this one!

  6. I do agree, Ruth. It’s THAT great. Not only Gyllenhaal gives his creepy performance, but how Gilroy hit with his debut is just more than amazing! I’m glad to see your points on this.

    1. Hello Paskalis! Yeah, Gilroy hit it right out of the park, amazing indeed for a directorial debut. Gyllenhaal is simply superb, he’s almost as good as Heath Ledger was as The Joker!

  7. About bloody time. It is such a great film as it pains me that Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo were overlooked in the awards seasons as I felt they deserved nominations.

    1. Ha..ha.. yeah, I’m SOOO late to the party aren’t I? It’s a travesty that neither Jake nor Renee was recognized. I can’t believe they chose Meryl Streep instead for her over-the-top performance in Into The Woods, blech!

      1. I know… plus, I think having Rene Russo nominated would’ve made things more interesting. Plus, Jake should’ve gotten nominated and he would’ve been more deserving of the Oscar instead of Eddie Redmayne.

        1. Amen Steven! Well let’s hope Jake G would continue to get great roles like this one though, if there’s justice in the world, he should collect a few Oscars in his career.

  8. Great review and glad to hear how much you liked it! Jake Gyllenhaal is excellent in this and I really liked how the screenplay gradually kept raising the stakes and tension. It’s so creepy how Lou started out filming crime scenes and then orchestrating them.

    1. Thanks! Lou Bloom will stand as one of the creepiest antihero in modern cinema. That moment when he tampered w/ the crime scene was just sooo unsettling.

  9. Yeah, you now know why it made my top 10 😉 Like you I’m surprised as well that he wasn’t nominated. Probably not enough people saw the film to have it register and gain traction.

    1. Awesome Nostra! It surely would’ve made my Top 5 I think. Hmmm I think the film has opened early enough for the Oscar voters to have seen it, after all it got a Best Original Screenplay nod.

  10. Glad to hear you enjoyed this one so much Ruth. I liked it but felt it was a little overhyped. I’d have to see if again, though, just to be sure. That’s why I never done a review on it.

    Gyllenhaal was outstanding, though, wasn’t he? I was also very impressed with Riz Ahmed.

    1. Hello Mark! I think there are some films that are definitely over-hyped but I don’t think Nightcrawler is one of them. In fact, it barely got recognized from Oscar or even other awards. Jake G, Ahmed and Russo are all great here, but the directing & writing was top notch as well. It’s hard to watch at times, but I think that’s the point.

  11. Stu

    Glad you enjoyed this, Ruth – I absolutely loved it and agree it should have had more award recognition. Gyllenhaal is so good and creepy like you say. That scene with Russo over dinner!!!

  12. Glad you loved Nightcrawler ! It’s currently in my top 5 of 2014. I look forward to what writter/director Dan Gilroy does next, an impressive debut feature. Definitely a film with something to say. I’ve read it’s a satire on our current culture of over documentation, where news is immediately available for public consumption, even if it shouldn’t be.

    1. Hello Chris! It really is a fantastic film, I’m curious to see what Dan Gilroy does next too. Hopefully he’ll get to do more original films in the future.

  13. WOW! You really loved this one, hey lady? I am glad to see that you did though! I thought it was good, though a little overhyped. Gyllenhaal was absolutely brilliant, and I think it is offensive that he wasn’t even nominated. Great review!

    1. Hi Zoe! Yeah I did, I thought it lives up to the hype, mostly because of Jake’s performance. Yeah it’s a bummer he wasn’t recognized.

    1. Cool so you’ve seen this one. Yeah, Gyllenhaal has continued to impress me. Sounds like he has some interesting projects in the future so hopefully then he’d get his dues.

  14. Glad you liked it so much, Ruth! I’d give it a strong 4/5, but Gyllenhaal certainly deserved an Oscar nomination. Maybe he’ll get another one soon, since he has Demolition, Everest and Southpaw coming out this year. 🙂

  15. Pingback: Movies coming to Netflix in June – here are the ones I recommend & look forward to |

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