Sunday, November 2, 2014

Nightcrawler - Take a Walk on the Creepy Side With Jake Gyllenhaal (Spoiler Free)

It was several months ago when I first heard something about Nightcrawler and about how good Jake Gyllenhaal was in it.  I’ve liked him in other movies, so that did get my attention even though I had no clue what the movie was about.  Even once I started to see previews, I wasn’t completely sure of the plot, but I wanted to see the movie. 

I am only going to briefly discuss the plot of Nightcrawler and I will not be sharing any major spoilers.

**Minor Plot Discussion**

Louis Bloom is doing somewhat questionable work in Los Angeles while being on the look out for something that could become a career.  By chance, he sees someone, Joe Loder, show up at the scene of an accident and start filming.  Lou learns that Joe goes to the scenes of accidents or crimes, films footage, and then sells the footage to whichever local news station will pay him the most.  Lou decides to try that type of work, gets an older video camera and scanner, and starts filming.  He gets footage his first night that Nina Romina, the night news director of a local television station likes and buys.  She says that Lou has a good eye, tells him to bring her anything else he gets, and suggests that he gets a better camera.

It isn’t long before Lou gets himself an assistant, Rick.  Lou continues to provide footage to Nina and he makes enough money to get better equipment and a new flashy, fast car.  Lou learns more about the news business in general and uses that knowledge to his advantage in his relationship with Nina.  Lou does have a talent for the work, but he starts to do questionable things to get footage at times, and that eventually lands him on the radar of the police.

**End of Minor Plot Discussion**

Nightcrawler is an entertaining, though somewhat disturbing, thriller that is well worth watching.  Things do start off a little slow as Lou is introduced and the situation is set up.   The slower pace at that point works for the story, showing how Lou begins his new career.  Things do pick up in certain scenes, like when Lou is driving like a maniac through Los Angeles to try to be the first at a scene while Rick freaks out in the passenger seat.  The plot is interesting and it is entertaining even though there are disturbing elements to it.  There are some graphic things shown at times, mostly connected to the stuff that Lou records and some swearing.  The movie does deserve the R rating and it is not a movie for children.

I have no idea how accurate the work that Lou got into is depicted in the movie.  I know large cities have more crime and more accidents.  I don’t live in a big city, though I do get local stations from one and there are stories about local crime and accidents.  I honestly don’t know if those stations send their own crews to those different locations or if they get footage from a freelance journalist like Lou.  It seems believable, and I know that the paparazzi sort of does the same thing, just by following celebrities instead of crimes.  Several scenes do take place at the station where Lou sells his videos.  Nina is a bit manipulative with the stories she edits and she is willing to use stories and footage that are questionable if she thinks it will get the station better ratings.  Later in the movie, she does talk to someone else at the station about what they can legally air, but even then, she talks about being willing to get fines for airing the footage.  Some of the news broadcasts are shown.  Early in the movie, Lou is captivated by seeing his footage on the news at home.  There are at least a few real broadcasters from Los Angeles in a few scenes here and there.  It does seem like Nina is willing to show stuff that is more graphic than what can actually air, though I know some stations keep trying to push that line. 

While I think that Nightcrawler is a thriller, there really isn’t any mystery to what is going on.  Lou’s background is a complete mystery since really nothing about his past is shared.  He does mention at one point that he didn’t go to college, but he took at least one class online.  Lou does several unexpected things throughout the movie which does keep things interesting.  The movie is definitely not predictable.  I don’t think the movie is action packed, though action does turn up in some scenes, usually when Lou is driving like a bat out of you know where to get somewhere in a hurry.  Later in the movie there is definitely building tension to what is going on.  At one point, Lou is chasing other vehicles involved in a high speed chase.  That sequence is very well done.  There is a little bit of humor here and there that briefly lightens the mood, but the movie is far from being a comedy.

Most of the movie takes place during the night when Lou is working.  He is shown filming several things, though he spends more time in his car, driving around while listening to the scanner.  That may sound boring, but it truly isn't.  Just about all the interactions between Lou and Rick happen in the car.  Even the scenes that take place at the television studio take place during the night, and there is dark lighting there as well, almost as if the station can’t afford to use lights at night.  That does cause some interesting lighting to be used throughout the movie.  At times the lighting does intensify Lou’s creepy look.  I did recognize some of the street names mentioned, though I have no idea if scenes were actually filmed in those places. 

Nightcrawler revolves around Lou and he is probably the most unique character I’ve seen in a movie in a long time.  He is ambitious and willing to do just about anything to reach his goals.  He is smart and he learns things quickly, which does help him in his new career.  It also helps him to do some of the more questionable things he does as well.  He can talk the talk, and while not everyone buys his line, he does convince several people to do what he wants.  This guy could probably sell igloos to Eskimos.  Lou does have a talent for getting the type of footage that Nina wants.  He wants to be the best at his work, and when something doesn’t go his way, he can get unpleasant.  Lou remains calm and seems to be polite with people he is upset with, but that doesn’t stop him from issuing threats while still talking in a calm tone with a pleasant - for him anyway - expression on his face.  He is twisted and creepy in a whole different way because of that.  He really isn’t a likable character at all, but he is fascinating.

Jake Gyllenhaal is absolutely amazing as Lou and he makes the movie.  He has a somewhat different look for the character, with hair that is an odd length - too long to really be short, but not long enough to really be long - and a gaunt look to his face from losing twenty pounds.  The weight loss make his eyes look slightly sunken, which adds to the creepy look.  Even when he smiles, he still looks creepy.  In some ways, he is even creepier when smiling.  At times, as things happen, this sort of crazed look comes into his eyes, making him look borderline psychotic, extremely creepy, and borderline crazy.  I have no idea how he did that, but it is very effective.  I will be surprised if Gyllenhaal doesn’t get award nominations for this performance.

Nina is the news director that first buys Lou’s footage.  She likes his work, including that he gets graphic, bloody, images at times.  She seems willing to put just about anything on air if it will get ratings.  Nina does try to establish some boundaries with Lou, but that ultimately doesn’t work.  At times she seems just about as crazed as Lou.  Renee Russo is really good in the part, though I wasn’t fond of the dark eye makeup she always wears.  A few other people around the station turn up every so often, but none of them receive as much attention as Nina. 

Rick is desperate for a job when Lou hires him.  Rick is in charge of navigation to get them to the different scenes while Lou drives like a maniac.  Rick buys into what Lou tells him during the interview, though he starts to have concerns about certain things tied to the way Lou does things.  He seems nice enough, though he doesn’t get much development.  Riz Ahmed handles the part well.  Joe Loder is the freelance video journalist that ends up getting Lou interested in the work to begin with.  Joe has been doing the work for a long time.  At one point he shares plans for expanding his business.  Joe does seem to feel threatened as Lou gets better at the work.  Bill Paxton is only in a few scenes, but he handles the part well. 

Nightcrawler is a very well done, somewhat disturbing thriller.  It probably won’t appeal to everyone, but it is definitely worth checking out, especially for fans of Gyllenhaal.  I do think it is worth checking out in theaters.

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