Nightcrawler ★★★★½

Review In A Nutshell:

Ambition. How far would one go to find success? That is a question that is answered here in Dan Gilroy's directorial debut, Nightcrawler. This was a film that I was only looking forward to when I happen to stumble upon a trailer for it, with a thumbnail of Jake Gyllenhaal's frightfully comical face. From seeing this trailer, only minor excitement was generated, thinking that it would be a performance driven film but wouldn't go really far in its storytelling. It was when the initial reviews came in and from then on, I had a different view of this film; finding potential in something that I thought was going to be forgettable. Now that I have seen the film, I can safely say that expectations were met and it tells a story that is not only entertaining but also thought provoking.

Nightcrawler is a character study, plain and simple. It follows this man who starts off with very little, scrapping and stealing in order to just float by; but within the first 10 minutes of the film, we learn so much about him through his actions and the way he sees things. We learn that this man is driven, charismatic, competitive, and curious; this was a man that could not easily be put down and it is obvious from his hopeful eyes and flashy grin. It is when this character, Louis Bloom, gets his foot into a career that we start to find flaws his in his character; that he not only gives up his morals because he is desperate to survive, it is because he is hungry to succeed. There is no such thing as failure in his book, and takes almost everything as an opportunity to learn and grow. This is where the film starts to question our society and as an individual, the line we sometimes cross in order to get ahead, as the world out there has become competitive and there will always be others out there who go far to wipe you out of the competition; but is this success worth losing our souls. One can either view Louis as a psycho or he could be seen as an individual who is willing to go the extra mile to get what he wants. I find myself seeing him split in the middle, with elements from both camps.

The film manages to be entertaining all the way through because of its sometimes dark comical touches. Gilroy understands that his character is excessive, and through excess it is easy to find the humour in it; therefore he finds a sense of balance, ensuring that its dramatic direction is not compromised. The film's themes could be used in almost any profession, but the choice of media, most particularly the news, is a spot on choice by Gilroy. It allows its audience the question of morality behind every headline and footage, on whether what we are seeing is in its pure and raw form or are we seeing something manipulated to draw emotional reactions from its audience. Nightcrawler also manages to be thrilling in following this character's journey, capturing the intensity of his profession and the desperation and commitment of the character to achieve his tasks are palpable during every moment. The film's climax is a wild ride from beginning to end, managing to become more than the physical chase that we are witnessing; it also builds tension between Louis and his partner, Rick, leading to an explosive moment that would leave one almost speechless.

Of course, Nightcrawler wouldn't be the amazing film that it is if it weren't for the performance brought by Jake Gyllenhaal. He brings so much charm and confidence to the role that it actually manages to both mask and elevate the character's sense of menace. There were so many instances where I felt frightened as I could feel his insides boiling but his external facade is not showing any indicators of breaking; aside for one scene involving a mirror. Gilroy and Gyllenhaal understands that it is the anticipation that creates the most effect from its audience, and they both play on this and rarely giving the audience a sense of relief. It is hard to say if this is his best work as there are a few that are battling for top spot.

I highly doubt that Nightcrawler would win Best Picture, let alone be nominated as its competitors seem to touch on aspects that are familiar and popular to nominated films from previous ceremonies, but there is no doubt in the strength of Gilroy's storytelling and the outstanding performance from Gyllenhaal. I do hope this film would be a prominent feature during Awards season, even if the odds are against it.

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