When I first caught wind of Nightcrawler, I feigned excitement in order to curry favor with those who thought it looked intriguing (which turned out to be pretty much everyone). Jake Gyllenhaal has turned in numerous Oscar-worthy performances, so simply getting glimpses of him coming completely unhinged onscreen definitely held its own appeal. But I remained curious at best, perusing the internet in hopes of salvaging some of my waning emotional investment in this movie. It wasn't until tonight, when I actually sat down with my soda, my popcorn, and my attention, that it dawned on me just how brilliantly conceived Nightcrawler is.
Lou Bloom ( a terrifyingly apathetic Jake Gyllenhaal) needs a job. He picks up new skills and absorbs copious amounts of information quickly and efficiently, but lacks honesty, kindness, and any kind of empathy for his fellow human being. After a chance encounter with some standoffish video journalists, Bloom makes it his mission to immerse himself in the morally ambiguous world of news reporting. After acquiring video equipment through his less-than-legal methods, Bloom begins hopping from crime scene to crime scene, turning in any footage he gleans to the local news station. As his interest grows and his skills improve, Bloom realizes that the only way to stay a step ahead of his competition is to ignore any type of convention and get the shots he needs, regardless of what that entails.
Like its sociopathic protagonist, [Nightcrawler](movie:938302) takes bold leaps and, more often than not, reaps the rewards for those leaps. Louis Boone quickly establishes himself as a hard, driven worker with a fierce commitment to his job that borders on ruthlessness. He tackles horrific crime scenes with disturbing alacrity, sidestepping snarling cops and often inching too close to victims or family members in aggressive attempts to obtain footage. He's meticulously developed and impeccably portrayed (thanks to an electrifying Jake Gyllenhaal), almost to a point where you want to love him despite how cruelly and callously he operates. As far as detached, deplorable characters go, it's difficult to top Louis Bloom.
As gripping as Gyllenhaal 's performance turns out to be, he still finds himself facing off against some equally capable co-stars. Rene Russo's compliments Bloom beautifully, sporting her own unique brand of insanity that will likely inspire that same balanced mixture of hatred and awe that makes Gyllenhaal such an incredible treat to watch onscreen. Bill Paxton appears as the sleazy, expletive spewing reporter who inadvertently pulls Bloom into journalism, perfectly conveying the “eat or be eaten” attitude many of these types of people possess.
Despite its myriad of strengths, Nightcrawler comes up short in one critical area. Director Dan Gilroy excels at building believable scenarios around compelling characters, but the way the film ends left me questioning that. The movie's third act feels horribly inconsistent with the preceding two acts, resulting in a jarring tonal shift that undercuts the movie's otherwise flawless execution. And then, as soon as some type of plot resolution seems imminent, the film ends. It's frustrating, because the film could have easily continued for another half hour and been an even more impressive movie for it.
At the end of the day, though, Nightcrawler plays to its many advantages and effortlessly separates itself from the mindless shlock that has plagued movie theaters in recent months. It's slick, smart, and brimming with confidence, and might even earn Gyllenhaal an Oscar nod when award season rolls around.