Jake Gyllenhaal plays Louis Bloom, a petty thief who lies, cheats, and steals just to pay the rent on his small LA apartment. That is until he learns there’s money to be had recording and selling footage of crimes and accidents to the local news stations…in Nightcrawler.
There are three words that come to mind to accurately describe Nightcrawler from writer-director Dan Gilroy:subtle, surreal, and selfishness.
At it’s heart, the movie is a deceptively engaging tale of one man’s selfishness. Louis Bloom is not a good man. Nor does Gyllenhaal attempt to bring any of his natural charm to the character. Instead, Gyllnehaal’s performance is a subtle, hypnotic turn as a wholly unlikable, yet somehow charismatic bottom-feeder who, despite his completely unsympathetic–and, at times, even malicious–behavior, manages to coerce everyone he meets to give in to their most selfish desires.
In a way, Gyllenhaall’s performance is the most frightening performance of Lucifer on-camera to date. This is not the sort of devil who charms characters and the audience, like Viggo Mortensen in The Prophecy or Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs. Nor is it the rage-fueled demon portrayed by Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate.
Instead, Louis Bloom is a self-absorbed, apathetic creature who slithers through the dimly lit roads and canyons of Los Angeles, appearing wherever grave sins are being committed, and convincing even the most morally aware character in the movie to give in to greed. And he doesn’t do this with charm or tricks, but rather well-worded arguments that breakdown these inherently selfish people’s attempts at lying to themselves.
THE MIDDLE OF THE REVIEW
As easy as the material could have given into melodrama at any given moment, Gilroy maintains a steady, quiet tone throughout. The eerie score never rises to consume the scene. Scenes filled with anger and malice are downplayed into quiet, seething moments that boil with tension. Even the most aggressively violent moments are framed out in the distance, with only the bloody aftermath being properly captured on screen. This provides the audience with a more objective, desensitized view of car wrecks, violent murders, and police shootouts–something more akin to the nightly news than your typical Hollywood thriller.
And it’s this subtle approach to such dark material sets Nightcrawler apart from similar dramas and thrillers, but it might also fail to sit well with some movie watchers. Despite it’s tight pacing, the movie can appear to be dragging at a snail’s pace due to how little happens at any given moment. Every character seems to be sleep deprived in the movie’s mostly late-night scenes. And the seemingly barely-there soundtrack feels more like ambient background than more pulse-pounding fare. Those not knowing the sort of movie they’re in for could be forgiven for finding Nightcrawler to be a little too subdued for its own good, possibly even boring.
But for those who stick around, they’ll likely discover that the downplayed performances, moments, and music aren’t likely to put them to sleep but instead provide the movie with a more dreamlike quality that enhances the experience.
Between Gyllenhaall’s deceptively commanding performance and Gilroy’s tight pacing and surreal visuals, the film masterfully convinces the audience to root for the least likable man possible, making Nightcrawler the only movie I know of that will have viewers grinning when the Devil wins time and time again.
And that’s why Nightcrawler is a definite big CHILL.