I’m a huge fan of the movie Network. It’s one of my all time favorites. Sydney Lumet’s film from Paddy Chayefsky’s brilliant script is as prophetic a film as they come, with the satirical vision of the media gone wild that’s even more relevant today than it was back in 1976. The sensationalism and “FIRST!” mentality of today, however, isn’t present. Another favorite is Martin Scorsese’s King of Comedy which is his and Robert DeNiro’s comedy to accent their Taxi Driver from years prior. It too has so many nods to the future and our fascination with fame and glory becoming ever more front and center in American culture, it’s ever changing definition morphing on a daily basis. Comedy‘s central character, Rupert Pupkin, is a delusional sociopath in the best of terms, so infatuated with his fame that he may in fact be imagining half of the events that take place in the film. Nightcrawler is the perfect marriage of these two movies, and oh so much more.
Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut from his own script follows oddball Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) in his pursuit of purpose. He needs a job, and his personality and qualifications are both major obstacles. Lou is…strange. He only gets stranger when he discovers the underground society of “nightcrawlers” in Los Angeles, people who race to crime scenes in order to get exclusive footage which they can sell to news stations. Not only is it a thrilling, dangerous career, but it can be very lucrative. Lou ends up meeting an executive of sorts Nina (Rene Russo) who sees a passion in Lou of which she has no comprehension. He’s cunning, cut throat and deranged, and he’s found the perfect career as a bottom feeder who thrives on disaster, and will do whatever it takes to get the best footage.
Gyllenhaal has been on a path of greatness lately. While the “McCaughnesance” has been in the public eye with all the awards activity, the “Gyllenrise” has been equally as impressive under the radar. His two phenomenal collaborations with Denis Villeneuve last year, Prisoners and Enemy, both showcase a side of the actor we haven’t quite seen before and before that he killed it in smart flicks like Source Code and End of Watch. Nightcrawler can safely assure that he’s on a steady path to becoming one of the very best American actors of the century. His performance is so good that you don’t want to blink or you’ll miss something he’s subtly doing to enhance the character. In less than two hours I felt like I fully understood this desperate man who becomes a force of nature by doing whatever it takes. I wanted the movie to be two hours longer! Near equal is Russo (Gilroy’s wife), who’s never been better, and shares at least two scenes of high voltage electricity with Gyllenhaal that are exceptional.
As much as the movie would be nothing without it’s leads, it would be even less without the steady guide of Dan Gilroy. It’s mindblowing as the film progresses that it was made for around 8 million bucks and that this was Gilroy’s FIRST FILM. His script is so tight and suspenseful that his direction has to match up to it, and between he and his twin-brother-editor John Gilroy there is an extremely well made product.
The only complaint I could make was that James Newton-Howard’s otherwise great score undermines and killed a really pivotal moment in the film for me by feeling really out of place. There’s also a bit of time between when the film takes off and the actual meat of the story begins to develop. Neither of these hurt the final film enough to effect how I felt about it. The movie’s too dark and strange to make any big awards splash, I think, which is a real shame as there are at least four categories I’d give the film a guaranteed win if it were up to me. See Nightcrawler as soon as you get the chance and let it get under your skin. I promise it won’t leave your mind anytime soon.