365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


Nightcrawler (2014)

It's getting closer and closer to awards season and I have continued to wait for that one movie that is really going to establish itself as the movie to beat before the real crop of contenders starts to come out between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Some of those that I thought would establish themselves, especially Boyhood, Gone Girl, or Birdman have failed to do so. The movie to beat at this point, for me, is still The Drop. But first-time director Dan Gilroy has made his claim with the creepy, Jake Gyllenhaal (Brothers, Prisoners) Nightcrawler. I feel fairly certain that this will be just one of two movies that I've seen thus far that will wind up in my end of year Top 10. There are others that are there now that, I'm hoping, will fall as we really get into the meat and bones of December. But The Drop and Nightcrawler seem to have cemented their spots.

Gyllenhaal is the best he's ever been as Lou Bloom, an unemployed, low-level thief searching for employment in an established company...in any company for that matter. His a major loner and there is just something about him that kind of rubs potential employers the wrong way. Basically, he creeps them out. He's got these big bug eyes that serve as his most distinguishable feature. He lacks the social skills to really even establish a balanced conversation with people he doesn't know, let alone the friends he doesn't have. He lives in a drab apartment and his favorite thing to do there seems to be to sit very close and eat his meals alone in front of his very outdated television set.

One night Lou arrives at a car accident moments after it happens and he is absolutely transfixed when a freelance cameraman shows up in a van minutes after the accident occurred, forcing himself between paramedics and police officers in order to get the most gruesome shots of the victim. Lou inquires to Joe Loder (Bill Paxton - A Simple Plan, Apollo 13) about what he will do with the footage. Joe tells him he's going to sell it to the local Los Angeles news station that will pay him the most. Though Joe doesn't tell Lou how much that will be, he's clearly intrigued and interested in getting in on the business. Lou asks for a job or an internship with Joe, but he's quickly blown off. But this is not enough to deter him. Lou gets his own camera and a police scanner and also hires himself his own intern, an unemployed and desperate man named Rick (Riz Ahmed). Lou makes it seem like he runs a credible business. Together, the two learn the police scanner lingo and do their best to arrive before any of these other "nightcrawlers"

Now I'm not sure if there is a manual on the do's and don'ts of a "nightcrawler", but if there is, Lou clearly either did not read it or chose to ignore it. I'm sure it takes a unique kind of person to have this as their profession. The person has to be willing to see people at their absolute worst and still be willing to videotape them, purely for personal gain. Lou seems to have all of these characteristics and more. His character seemingly is very hollow. His character is also fairly one-dimensional. He wants to earn money and make a name for himself. He doesn't have many, if any, interests outside of that. And he's willing to do whatever it takes to achieve this. Lou has the ability to look others in straight in their eyes, lie to their faces, and never really feel poorly about it. He has the power to manipulate others and does so throughout the movie. He operates with a "me first" mentality. It seems to be his greatest strength as a person. As he gains more experience, he becomes very good at what he does. Just as he learned from Joe, he goes to the local television networks with his footage. Specifically he targets Nina (Rene Ruso - In the Line of Fire, Outbreak), the nighttime news manager of Channel 6 which is the lowest rated station in the area. The engaging, but conniving Lou is sweet and innocent at first and says all of the right words. This is clearly what you would expect as he is trying to get his foot in the door and to really establish himself. But as he continues to hone his craft, his requests turn into demands and he's willing to walk away from Nina and Channel 6 if she rejects him. But he knows she won't because her ratings have increased since Lou has been brought on. She's willing to show the gruesomeness that Lou footage provides. She's not concerned with any sort of moral responsibility as long as she isn't breaking the law.

As mentioned, Lou gets good at his job very quickly. He doesn't seem to have many self-imposed restrictions about what he will cover or what he won't do to get the coverage others can get. Though he lacks social skills and proper etiquette for certain situations, he is able to come across as likable and innocent. When it starts to seem like he is always in the right place at the right time, no one really questions it, especially Channel 6. He's getting them ratings and, in return, he's getting more money than he's ever had before. And his mind control games with others (Rick and Nina in particular) are helping him achieve the high goals he set out for himself. He mentions the words "business plan" a couple of times in the movie, but we never see what this business plan is unless it is to earn as much money as quickly as possible, then get name recognition, and then dominate the "nightcrawler business".

Gyllenhaal is the story of this movie. With apologies to Brokeback Mountain, this is his best performance to date. He's flat out awesome and you'll carry this performance away with you well after this movie is over. This creepy performance is reminiscent of Robert DeNiro in Taxi Diver or Robin Williams in One Hour Photo. Is Lou mostly a good guy, mostly a bad guy, mostly a misunderstood guy, or a guy who has some serious mental issues? You'll be asking yourself these questions throughout the movie and you might not really know exactly how you feel until the film's final moments. Though his character is very one-dimensional, his performance is layer thick and he portrays himself to others in ways that he knows people want to see him. But his motives are always right there and the more we get to know about him, the more we know we will remember this character for years to come. And with such an amazing performance and solid all around film, credit has to be given to the director, who, in this case, was also the writer. Nice work, Dan Gilroy. I look forward to seeing where your career goes from here.

Good luck trying to forget about this movie once it's over. It might be the first must-see of 2014.

Plot 10/10 (I felt like this was very, very original and, for that, I was grateful)
Character Development 9/10
Character Chemistry 9/10
Acting 8.5/10 (Gyllenhaal was amazing...the other performances weren't the best...Paxton and Ruso have always been overrated...that hasn't changed here)
Screenplay 9.5/10
Directing  9.5/10
Cinematography 8.5/10
Sound 8.5/10
Hook and Reel 8/10 (I was tired and it was late, but this movie never lost my interest)
Universal Relevance 9.5/10 (In this day and age, absolutely...and the fact that it is is absolutely terrifying)

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