What to Expect
Post Prisoners and Enemy – both Denis Villeneuve films – there’s been a lot riding on Jake Gyllenhaal and the kind of projects he’s been picking to involve himself in. When Nightcrawler was thus announced, it definitely piqued my interest tenfold. Unsurprisingly enough, almost, as the trailer dropped in – and boy was it spot on – I was in for the ride already.
But for the more discerning potential audience, Dan Gilroy might not be as attractive a credit in the world of unadulterated cinema as may have been expected. While he’s had some ups in the field of writing in the form of mild pushes in his career with The Fall and Real Steel, he didn’t really start off that way. Involved in such damp squibs of projects like Freejack, Chasers and Two for the Money. Of course, there was also the mixed-bag of a fourth film in the Jason Bourne franchise that shot off on a very middle-of-the-road tangent. Should Nightcrawler (also his debut directorial venture) turn out a commendable watch, this would – on a personal level – definitely be an extremely redeeming factor in this Gilroy brother’s career.
The question, however, remains – is this as good as the extremely promising promotional material has given it out to be?
What’s it About?
Louis Bloom (Gyllenhaal) isn’t really your everyday guy. He’s sharp, quick-witted, aggressive, and (in his own words) “a quick learner.” Oh, and he’s also a psychopath who’ll basically do anything and everything to survive. And when he finds a job that can give him more than just survival, he has to make sure that he’s a notch above every competitor out in the open.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
We’ve been able to see a wide variety of independent films this year, the likes of Gyllenhaal’s own Enemy, Chef and The Guest exemplifying the otherwise wide array of stories and passion-projects the viewers (myself included) have had the privilege of coming across. Genres and genre-defying mergers have popped up, giving the more devoted movie lovers a lot to explore. A movie like this, thus definitely had to have been on our lists.
And guess what? It does not disappoint! The film, right from the crisp writing, draws you into the storyline and its progressive proceedings from the very first scene itself. While a lot of movies do take some time building characters before taking them on their respective journeys, the movie drops a sudden bomb on you right at the start. You’re almost immediately introduced to the protagonist, wanting to know what his motives are, and what’s his justification for the progressively delirious moves he makes. Gilroy has successfully written an absolutely brilliant character in the form of Lou, who involves you through and through.
All of this doesn’t stop here. There are a lot of scripts that are character-driven, and then a lot that are plot driven. Gilroy, however, does an extremely fine job by blending in a fascinating character portrait of a man with an involving story that thankfully decides to hand you the metaphorical unsolved-Rubik’s-Cube for you to solve, rather than solving it for you. Of course, while doing that, it simultaneously provides a very unflattering, yet intriguing outlook into the many dubiously loose threads that the media industry has hanging around. At times humorous, at times highly sarcastic, the movie treads on the “how-to” aspects of turning from a freelancer to a full-blown entrepreneur in a fairly twisted moral context. This is a story that doesn’t manipulate the viewer into thinking a certain way; rather it has its own agenda to follow – which it does. And how.
Sure, it’s a bit slow in the initial minutes, but that’s solely how calculated the game’s being played here. In his debut directorial venture, Gilroy impresses by having nothing but total control over the material here. His focussed, sans-indulgence execution not only brings out the best in the performances of the cast, but also in the way the movie plays out overall. Robert Elswit (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) helps lens the frames of the film spectacularly, giving the movie the ravishingly ultra-sleek look it so deserves. The same goes for the absolutely stunning camera operations, capturing in its full pulse-pounding glory some brilliantly filmed on-the-road chase sequences. The production design prices up the paradoxical glitz of Los Angeles the film has to offer. Add in the other brother John’s knitting together of the film, and polish it with the appropriate background score by James Newton Howard, and you’ve got together some genuine, winning tension.
To Perform or Not to Perform
I have been nothing but consistently impressed by the roles Gyllenhaal’s been choosing, and I have no reason why to to stop here. Slipping into the act completely, he gives the viewers an extremely fantabulous performance that is both complex and controlled, thus hitting the nail right on the head. This performance definitely accounts for an Academy Award nomination at the very least. watch out for one very specific psychotic fit of his in front of the mirror that comes out of nowhere in the film. More than enough to send the chills down your spine.
Rene Russo (Thor) plays her part effortlessly, and it shows. As a viewer, you’re consistently invested in her character, and the fact that she’s standing next to Gyllenhaal’s more dynamically written arc is damn impressive. watch out for how the inter-relationship between the characters of Russo and Gyllenhaal (both flawed, albeit widely tangential from each other) are played out. Kevin Rahm (television’s Desperate Housewives) is efficient. Riz Ahmed (The Reluctant Fundamentalist) delivers a stellar performance, allowing the audience to both feel and fear for him. Bill Paxton is a fun watch; his rather obnoxiously cocky self comes across as a good element for a face off between him and our protagonist. Michael Hyatt (Like Crazy) is a strong presence during the last half of the film, and – even through her short role – leaves a mark. Others are good.
It’s been a difficult ride packing in enough praise for a movie of this caliber. Playing its cards right, the movie ends up being an absolute winner in its sheer dexterousness of being consistently progressive.Filled with focussed direction and almost-calculated writing, the movie, nevertheless, is unpredictable as hell. Allowing you to decipher the rather hard puzzle to crack, the movie throws you into the proceedings without manipulatively subscribing you to the makers’ moral code. With sleekly filmed thrills, Gyllenhaal’s powerhouse performance and the occasional dip into the territory of dangerously dark humor, Nightcrawler is a wildly engrossing thriller-drama that just doesn’t let go till the credits roll.
Easily one of the best films this year; highly recommended!
Watch the trailer
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