Nightcrawler ★★★★½

Nicolas Winding Refn wasn't even on my radar prior to my witnessing the recent neon soaked urban masterpiece Drive, a film that navigated the streets of Los Angeles in a way that can only be described as cool. He had previous films under his belt, but in my world it was his debut into my cinematic soul and I couldn't wipe the smile off of my face no matter what was taking place on the screen. Deranged deaths and the gloomy haze of a polluted city at night, it all tasted delicious and I wanted more, but who could duplicate such a vibe? Others have extracted a similarly strange sex appeal from content that should never make a level headed human being aroused, filmmakers like Michael Mann and David Fincher off the top of my head, but would I ever discover something new that would impact me the way Drive did?

I'm not 100 percent sure I can put you on that pedestal just yet, Dan Gilroy, but I know at the very least you came really, shockingly close.

Nightcrawler tells the story of a man named Lou Bloom, played so well by Jake Gyllenhaal that I can't even decipher what the proper adjectives would be to make anyone reading this understand, so I will circle back to that with a clearer mind soon. Bloom is looking for a job, and after some initial failings in that regard he stumbles upon a car wreck early one morning and he witnesses a cameraman named Joe Loder (Bill Paxson) capturing the tragedy on camera. As the sun rises a few hours later, that same footage recorded by Loder ran on a local morning news, and Bloom considers that the financial possibilities found with this unconventional career opportunity may be exactly the type of thing he was looking for.

Eerie, hypnotic, unsettling, striking, unnerving, haunting, hilarious, and much like Drive, so god damn cool, Nightcrawler is a wonderful balance of all of this and more. Photographed by Robert Elswit, who has some notable experience working with similar cityscape imagery as the regular cinematographer of the genius auteur Paul Thomas Anderson, I could bathe in the gorgeous aesthetic on display throughout this film. The directorial debut of Dan Gilroy, and by god keep em' coming sir. If this is the vision you are capable of the very first time you step behind the camera, I cannot wait to see what comes next.

None of this works without Gyllenhaal though. I am not typically a performance guy, not because I don't admire the work of actors at the top of their craft but rather because I am simply more drawn to those working behind the screens (see above where I gush about names like Refn, Robert Elswit, PT Anderson and Dan Gilroy), but I cannot ignore the importance of the lead performance here. With the physical transformation of a significant weight loss by Gyllenhaal came a total investment in the character, and thus the work done here has the potential to be iconic. I couldn't take my eyes off of him throughout, as even the slightest mannerism or most minor facial expression seemed to add depth to the character. Probably the finest work by an actor thus far in 2014, and that includes Eddie Redmayne who essentially was Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Gyllenhaal absolutely owns Nightcrawler, and I honestly can't tell you what I would do if I saw the man approach me tomorrow. A part of me feels I would want to shake his hand, tell him that I am a big fan and spew praise of what he accomplished here, but another part of me would think Lou Bloom was heading my way with his motivational pitch, ready to offer me a career opportunity. Just the idea of that will keep me up at night.

A vibrant, exciting film about obsession and a wonderful, clever satire about the true goal of the media when they are delivering us the news. One of the best films of 2014, my goodness I can't wait to take this wild ride again.

Scott liked these reviews