"Nightcrawler" Film Review

Nightcrawler (2014) - IMDb

"Nightcrawler" Film Review

Rating: 5/5

By: Nathaniel Simpson

    Dan Gilroy's 2014 film "Nightcrawler" delivers the perfect embodiment of a modern-day Travis Bickle. The film, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal in perhaps one of his best performances yet, follows his character Lou, who is a sort of loner that goes around doing odd jobs and stealing other's belongings to get what he wants in life. Yet, when he discovers a passion for being a cameraman for crimes reported around suburban Los Angeles, he starts down a dark and twisted path that is perfectly executed throughout the film due to Gilroy's brilliant directing and screenplay and Gyllenhaal's immaculate performance as a modern psychopath. 

    If you have seen any of Gyllenhaal's other works, he is incredibly charming and charismatic for the most part. I mean, let's take his performance as Jamie in "Love & Other Drugs", opposite Anne Hathaway. He is practically the definition of sex appeal, and it is obvious throughout that movie he has sex with multiple women; there is no denying he is a very good-looking and attractive man, and that comes from me being a straight male. So, it seemed impossible he would fit this role of a terrifying psychopath that goes to the extremes to obtain his dreams in life and build his connections, as his character Lou keeps bringing up throughout the movie. 

    Yet, Gyllenhaal pulls it off perfectly, and I would without a doubt say this is one of the best psychopathic performances since Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver". From his personality to his physical appearance (he lost 30 pounds from his already fit and thin build he usually has), he throws himself into the role. After a while from watching this movie, you can't even tell that is Gyllenhaal taking on this performance, and that is what this performance needed to do. When you watch De Niro in "Taxi Driver" or Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men", do you see the actor in this performance? I certainly don't, and I think Gyllenhaal genuinely succeeded at making me feel that as well. It doesn't matter if he gives your favorite performance of his in films like "Donnie Darko" or "Brokeback Mountain", this is without a doubt his best. 

    However, his performance is beautifully complimented by Gilroy's brilliant screenplay and his characterization of this character. He shows how he really understands the psyche of a person like this, so much that it is kinda terrifying to think of how he knows so much about how this man works. In terms of the story though, it moves at a very fast and brisk pace, never leaving room for it to slow down or drag at any time. At the same time, the character progression of Lou, as well as showing those that are affected around him, are perfectly executed. 

    One thing I genuinely appreciate that Gilroy did was progressively show the crimes getting worse and worse. At first, it is a car crash with a near-fatality, but there is minimal blood shown. Then, we get to the final crime that we see Lou chase after before the movie ends, which is a home invasion/robbery. Not only do we see the gruesome aftermath, but get to observe the dead bodies of the people that were attacked in their home. Personally, this scene made me sick to my stomach and chilled me to the bone, both due to the realistic nature of it and Lou's uncaring attitude about the crimes; all he wants is to get the shots to see to the news studios. 

    I also want to commend the actors playing the minor characters here, such as Rene Russo as Nina, Riz Ahmed as Rick, and the late Bill Paxton as Joe Loder. Each one of these characters have a major impact on Lou and his sanity, forcing him to do the cruel and inhumane things he does throughout the movie. Each one plays their role very well, and really sells their characters and who they are as people and what they want out of all of this. It's unfortunate for them that Gyllenhaal stole the scene throughout the movie, but they still did a great job with what they were given for their characters. 

    Gilroy pretty much captured lightning in a bottle with this film, and every aspect is pretty much flawless. Whether it is the genius screenplay to the tour de force performance by Gyllenhaal, there is no doubt this is one of the best modern psychological movies. I applaud everyone involved, and this will easily go down as one of Gilroy's and Gyllenhaal's best films of their respective careers.