Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA, 2014. Bold Films, Nightcrawler. Screenplay by Dan Gilroy. Cinematography by Robert Elswit. Produced by Jake Gyllenhaal, Music by Production Design by Costume Design by Film Editing by Academy Awards 2014. Golden Globe Awards 2014. Gotham Awards 2014. Independent Spirit Awards 2014. Toronto International Film Festival 2014.
It’s hard to make your career happen in an economic crisis, but when you are ambitious and not picky about the job category, the sky’s the limit on the opportunities you can pursue. Looking to build himself into a boss and tired of stealing scrap mental to survive, wide-eyed and uncompromising Jake Gyllenhaal stumbles upon a path worth following when a traffic accident puts him in the way of camera men who take footage of tragedies and sell them to local news stations on a freelance basis. Stepping in to the game with an old video camera and a hesitant assistant, Gyllenhaal gets footage of grisly events that catch the eye of a news director (Rene Russo) working the vampire shift of a low-rated news station, and finds that it is his foot in the door. It isn’t long before he begins to rewrite his own history and speak of his work as a higher calling, nor does it take much time before he is looking to make Russo his personal affair as well as demanding more money and commitment from her professionally. She, in turn, finds him alarming but, in her desire to get ratings, loves his inability to put a limit on what is appropriate to be seen and fully indulges in his gory imagery. When Gyllenhaal arrives at the scene of a multiple homicide before the police do, in a perfectly shot and directed central sequence, he gets information on the killers that the authorities are not privileged with, at which point he is not just at the top of the heap for capturing news but possibly being the one to make the story happen in the first place. It is not long after you enter this movie that the sense that this character has no moral boundaries both terrifies and entertains you, a flavor that writer-director Dan Gilroy maintains evenly throughout, Gyllenhaal’s wild stare and haunted look fitting in perfectly with the zombie life of the night time jungle that is Los Angeles. Russo, real-life wife to Gilroy, is exceptionally compell20ing as Gyllenhaal’s collaborator, a woman who thinks she has a morally superior position but actually is willing to do whatever it takes to get to the top of her field too. A smart script, outstanding direction and an intelligent tone of cynicism, one that calls the news media on its circus-like chicanery without ever being didactic about it, makes for a rich film experience, and I haven’t even gotten to the breathtaking car chase scene in the middle that will make you want to watch it again.