FilmReview

Review: Jake Gyllenhaal Stuns in Pulse-Pounding, Psychological ‘Nightcrawler’

George Huertas ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler. Photo Credit: Chuck Zlotnick/Open Road Films.
Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler. Photo Credit: Chuck Zlotnick/Open Road Films.

“My motto is, if you want to win the lottery, you have to make the money to buy a ticket.”

So goes Louis Bloom’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) philosophy in the fantastic, fascinating, and utterly cruel satire Nightcrawler. Gyllenhaal plays Lou, a man on the prowl for many things. Wealth. Power. But most of all, Lou wants to make himself a name. Someone who can pull the strings from behind the scenes. When he first happens to come across a nightly news team filming a flaming car accident, Louis looks almost starstruck. He believes that this can be his true calling. Armed with a camcorder, a beat-up automobile, and his hapless assistant Rick (played to deadpan perfection by Riz Ahmed), Lou sets out to capture the ugliness of Los Angeles that only reveals itself at night.

And what a beautifully ugly city it is! Robert Elswit’s cinematography makes Los Angeles every bit a character as Louis Bloom. Whether Louis is peeling through neon-soaked streets in his car, recording graphic accidents, or speaking to his supervisor Nina (played by Rene Russo) against a cascading backdrop of news reports, Nightcrawler never looks anything but striking. It bears more than a few similarities to the dreamlike beauty of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive. However, this city of Los Angeles is less a dream and more like a never-ending nightmare.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo in Nightcrawler. Photo Credit: Chuck Zlotnick/Open Road Films.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo in Nightcrawler. Photo Credit: Chuck Zlotnick/Open Road Films.

Speaking of which, Louis Bloom is, in many ways, the antithesis of Ryan Gosling’s Driver. Whereas the Driver had his own particular morals, spoke rarely if at all, and had limited experience with human interaction; Louis possesses no morals, often speaks in lengthy and sesquipedalian monologues, and spins words around people like spiders spin webs around flies. Louis is an awful human being, but he is one that we can never take our eyes off. Jake Gyllenhaal’s brilliant, physically demanding performance is enmeshed perfectly with Dan Gilroy’s tense, tight script and supremely confident direction, giving the film a pulse-pounding excitement that keeps one at the edge of their seat.

Nightcrawler is steeped in darkness and cynicism, giving a view of humanity that is at once brutal and comical. This is perhaps best exemplified in the scene wherein Louis negotiates with Nina for an expanded salary, increased billing for his name, and her bedroom. Here, Louis demonstrates his need for control, how he only observes people by their usefulness to him and how he can be frighteningly convincing to the right ears. What Nightcrawler does then, is function as a Network for the 21st century. It’s dark, it’s humorous, and above all, it’s smart. In many ways, it’s just like its sociopathic protagonist.

Overall Grade: A

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