Movie Review: Nightcrawler

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(Copyright: Open Road Films, the
film publisher or graphic artist.)

Written By: Mark Armstrong

Distributor: Open Road Films
Production Company: Bold Films
Director: Dan Gilroy
Producers: Jennifer Fox, Tony Gilroy, Michel Litvak, Jake Gyllenhaal and David Lancaster
Scriptwriter: Dan Gilroy
Main Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed and Bill Paxton
Released: September 5 2014 (Toronto International Film Festival) and October 31 2014 (UK and US)
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Certificate: 15

When I saw the trailer for the movie Nightcrawler, I immediately wanted to see it. A burst of adrenaline, the preview clip looked action-packed, edgy, dangerous – in short, it made the film must-see. I did go and watch it but, whilst there’s no denying that it is a compelling film, it didn’t quite have the impact that I hoped it would from the trailer.

Nightcrawler sees Louis “Lou” Bloom (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) looking for work in any field, before a chance encounter with a TV news cameraman sees him enter the world of crime reporting, albeit on a very low budget. At first, his attempts to cover brutal injuries are hampered by the experience of his competitors, and due to the quality of his work, the stories he can provide film on are rejected by news channels. But after one particular story, his almost too-good-to-be-true camera shots of the incident act as a breakthrough: his footage is used on a Los Angeles-based news station, and he begins providing similar scoops for the channel going forward.

Lou’s career progresses in various ways: he can begin to afford better equipment, and soon hires an assistant, albeit one who acts more as a lookout, in Rick Carey (Riz Ahmed). He strikes up a good working relationship with Nina Romina (Rene Russo), the morning news director. He begins getting better footage of bigger scoops, leading to him earning higher sums of money for his films; so much so that at one point, a competitor attempt to establish a working relationship with him, only to be declined. But, most importantly, his footage becomes more gruesome as he shows a complete lack of conscience and consideration for victims; however, whilst the clips are shocking, the news station itself is struggling, so money triumphs over morals and the footage is shown.

But then comes a major incident: a triple murder of a family with the two assailants escaping. Not only does Lou break the law to obtain horrific shots of the victims, he engineers a series of events to have the police catch the murderers, but whilst filming the high-drama scenes, even if it means endangering the lives of himself and his assistant. Meanwhile, Nina is under severe pressure concerning the approach the channel takes to covering the story, made more awkward when Lou suggests that they must have a romantic relationship for him to keep supplying the station with footage. What will happen, and what (if anything) will happen to Lou?

I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that it felt like one or two crucial scenes are missing. The narrative takes us one way, to believe one outcome, but suddenly the situation somehow seems resolved and we enter a different arc, and then it ends. With one or two additional scenes to cover “How did (insert name) do (insert task)” or “How did he/she avoid (insert crime)”, the climax would have made more sense; as it is, I was left wondering “Well, what happened?” I can accept an unexpected ending so long as we are given evidence to support why it was the case, but we aren’t really given any.

I said earlier that I was a bit disappointed with the film based on the trailer, and I state here why: the action comes thick and fast in the short promo for Nightcrawler, yet the movie itself does not have that much more action in it. This is more of a cursory glance at the motives of a man who may not be evil but is cold, calculating, uncaring and willing to do anything, without remorse, to achieve his goals. Jake Gyllenhaal is terrific in portraying this character and, from a moral standpoint, you do wonder “How can he do that?” The crime scene visuals are as shocking as you can get, although I can’t say such images drive me to see a movie.

So, how to sum up Nightcrawler? Based on my expectations, I was disappointed. Based on what I did see, though, I still found it to be worthwhile. It was dramatic, it was fascinating, it was at times uncomfortable yet compelling – in other words, it was a good movie. The less relevant scenes could have been omitted to include more moments to explain the climax but, besides that, it was a film that largely held my attention. It wasn’t as good as I had hoped, but I still enjoyed it and, if you appreciate films that act as physical studies of how some states of mind operate, so should you.

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 – Good