When asked to describe himself, Lou would probably go for terms like “hard worker” or “fast learner” or something of the sort. In reality, he’s more of a starving coyote who has committed every book on how to be successful to heart. Lou is undoubtedly a sociopath, but he’s a sociopath that you’ll more than likely find yourself rooting for. His persistence, his weird sense of humor, and his early sense of humanity all make you hope for him, even when he’s doing something to violate pretty much every ethical code in journalism. Gyllenhaal shows us the character’s humanity when it would be so easy for it to get lost in translation from page to screen, while still managing to make viewers squirm with his rapid fire, wide-eyed presence.
“Nightcrawler “tells the story of Lou, a young man looking for work on the streets of Los Angeles. Driven and passionate, Lou discovers the world of freelance crime video journalism, and what follows is a joyously messed-up two hours. A strong script and an awesome performance from Jake Gyllenhaal make “Nightcrawler” a must-see.
The script deserves as much praise as Gyllenhaal. The story is structured so that it really spends all of its time on Lou and his journey to success, always presenting fascinating and exciting situations for the character to play in. Lou’s dialogue sounds like something out of a how-to-be-successful self help book; he quotes statistics, preaches the benefits of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, and manipulates crime scenes so that he can get the best story. Every monologue he has shows us just how obsessed and lonely his character is, and how capitalism is his one and only tether to the world. There can be some quips pointed at the script; it might have been nice to have seen a little more from the supporting cast outside of Lou’s perspective, but seeing as how Lou is such a great character, it’s hard to really name that as a serious fault.
LA has real characters and texture, the sort that the city seldom gets in movies. The red and blues of flashing sirens, the glow of headlights, the empty roads, and the towering beach trees all make the city feel like a dangerous, wild place. The few scenes that take place in daylight feel wholly at ends with the city once the moon rises. Gilroy and Elswit, director and cinematographer, have created a version of LA that marries the presence of man made things with the raw, violent, physical beauty of the land.
Gilroy’s debut as a director is a successful one, as he displays a strong sense of how long to stay with each scene before moving on. The scenes where Lou captures the grisly aftermath of crimes and accidents on camera, his face wide-eyed and skeletal underneath the street lights, just get more mesmerizing. The scene where we witness the news report of a triple homicide get put together on the spot doubles as entertainment and a biting commentary of how the media chooses to depict violence. That may be the greatest praise to the film in general; it balances on the razor’s edge between being an entertaining thriller and having something meaningful to say. It’s always best when those two goals can be accomplished in the same scene, and “Nightcrawler” does that wonderfully.
It might be easy to lose track of “Nightcrawler” amid the slew of excellent movies out right now, but it’s one not to be missed. It’s a thoroughly fun and twisted thriller, delivering on pretty much every aspect it sets out to. The streets of LA are a hostile, alien world once the sun sets, and it’s a world you’ll want to explore.