Words by Matt Poe
A low-life searching for work becomes infatuated with filming breaking crime stories in Los Angeles. He soon realizes in order to be the first to get the footage, certain laws must be broken.
Category: Suspense, Thriller, Crime
Rated R for violence, including graphic images and language
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal/ Written and Directed by Dan Gilroy
Hello. Make yourself comfortable. I’d like to start off by saying thank you for arriving at the first ever Poe’s Picks. Whether you meant to come here for riveting analysis on all films Netflix or some higher power guided you, you’re in luck. Before we get started, I want to add a few disclaimers.
One of the main reasons I started this blog is because of how bad the Netflix star ratings are. Some horrendous, awful movies and shows have full five star ratings, while other movies that deserve your undivided attention are merely thrown by the wayside because of only a few measly stars. Who in the hell makes those ratings? This is why the great people of The Burr have brought me here: to decide what’s worth watching and what’s not. Remember that through all films, both good and bad, we’re in this together.
So throw on your Snuggie, make a bowl of kettle corn (because it kicks regular popcorn’s ass) and fire up that Netflix account you’ve stolen from a friend of a friend. Let’s get to it.
“Nightcrawler” tells the story of Louis Bloom, played by the always reliant Jake Gyllenhaal in what may be his finest role to date. The film opens at night with Bloom cutting through a chain-link fence near railroad tracks when a police officer rightfully questions Bloom’s reasoning for doing such a thing. How does Bloom react? Well, after seeing the fancy wristwatch on the officer, he begins to beat the snot out of him and takes his watch. Why? Because he felt like it. From the get-go, we realize Bloom isn’t one to be messed with.
One night as Bloom drives along the highway, he sees a burning vehicle pulled off to the side. As police officers frantically attempt to remove a woman from the vehicle, a news truck shows up in search for the perfect shot to accompany the story for the morning news. From that moment on, Bloom is hooked on the risks and rewards of getting the perfect shot on video. It becomes his drug. Soon after, he buys a video camera, hires an “intern” and begins to film breaking crime stories. He decides being the first to get the footage of drunk driving accidents, carjackings and home invasions is worth any means necessary.
And that’s all I’ll say. This is one film where the less you know going in, the better off you’ll be. The backdrop of Los Angeles sets the scene perfectly for the film, which is shot almost entirely at night. There is some great camerawork by cinematographer Robert Elswit, who’s credited with films such as “There Will be Blood,” “Syriana” and “The Town.”
There are also some great supporting roles in the film: Bill Paxton as Joe Loder, a cameraman who wants Bloom fired for stepping in on his turf when it comes to getting that perfect shot; Rene Russo as Nina Romina, the news director willing to put up with Bloom’s antics for the sake of her job; and Riz Ahmed as Rick, the “intern” who merely wants a job but doesn’t realize what he’s signed up for is much more than that.
The film, however, belongs to Gyllenhaal. His portrayal of Bloom is deeply complex and gives us a wide range of subtle, silent moments, and some with him as a madman with his hair on fire. At times, we want to wring his neck. In other scenes, we have some sympathy for him. Gyllenhaal reportedly lost 20 pounds for the role, and he still looks like he’ll kick your ass. Without a great performance to drive this one-man show, the film would easily fall flat. But Gyllenhaal leaves us in good hands.
The film is a work of fiction with some well-timed laughs at the absurdity of it all, but, nevertheless, the tension and suspense mounts the entire way. And yet, behind some of the satire and sarcasm, there is some ugly truth to the film’s topic. In today’s world, where everyone has a camera on them, we often film accidents and disasters before we help those involved. You can find 100 memes on the Internet depicting this. And that’s what the film asks the audience: how far are we willing to go to get that perfect shot, and what is the final cost?
Until next time!
In Good Movies We Trust,
Matt “Roger Ebert wishes he was half the film critic I am” Poe