Okay, let me set the stage for you. As a Nolan stooge, I did everything I can to catch the first glimpse of Interstellar. Drove 80 miles up and down to catch it at an IMAX 70 mm theater. The 3 PM show got cancelled due to technical difficulties and the next show was at 7 pm. The theater was situated inside a mall, so the other option was to kill 4 hours loitering. I honestly tried for 15 unsuccessful minutes as the whines of children and selfie taking populace reminded me why I am not fun at parties.
I went on to purchase the tickets to Nightcrawler as I have a good amount of respect for Mr. Gyllenhaal. From Donnie Darko , Love and other drugs to the recent End of Watch, I always felt that he was a solid actor. Little did I know that I was in for a fantastic treat of modern Noir cinema.
Nightcrawler is a story about a nobody, who has nothing but burning ambition to succeed and make a quick buck in the shortest way possible. We witness Jake Gyllenhall with a set of pliers trying to carve open a gate to a train terminal. The camera pans out to a wider angle and we see that he is not trying to get in but just steal the material for junk.
You feel sorry for Jake at first, he comes across as a naive junkie who is just looking for a break. On one eventful night, he bumps into the world of Local News. He witnesses an accident , a car crash and a woman is almost engulfed in flames. While two officers are fighting flames to get the lady out of the burning car, a hawkish reporter swoops in covering the accident. The reporter informs him that he makes money out of covering accidents, burglary, armed robbery or any felony that might create havoc in the mind of the viewers. The more horrific the incident, the better the money.
The modus operandi of a freelance journalist and he is hooked. In the meantime Jake convinces us that he is a swashbuckling panhandler who uses his money from the grab and steal and embarks upon a journey in crime investigation.
Here is the part that jolts you, he is not your run of the mill journalist with a conscience to serve justice rather he is attracted by the blood thirsty demand by the public for gore. We are forced to reconcile with the fact that the only two things that sell on daily television is controversy and gore. The good ole fashioned serial killer, the hapless mother abandoning her child in a car left to die, the urban crime committed by colored races which is blown out of proportion to strike horror into the hearts of timid middle class.
The public feasts upon such stories of macabre because simply put we are carnal. The next hour or so, we become companions to his ruthless and meteoric success as a reporter which is only matched by his depraved ambition. He finds an ally in “Rene Russo” as a middle aged producer who is belligerently fighting anonymity in the daily news section. We see her make a case for senseless, edited, divisive television instead of presenting corroborating facts. Russo delivers her role spotlessly as a by product of cheap, divisive journalism pandering to the lowest common denominator.
There is a dinner scene where Jake attempts to court Rene, and the exchange is one to remember. That scene is simply put, superlative. Extraordinary writing.
Jake is then joined by a nervy homeless guy excellently portrayed by “Riz Ahmed” who willingly signs up to be an accomplice. Jake handles him brilliantly as he shares his ambition with him. Actually let me correct that, he abuses him through intimidation and forces him to ignore any values for human emotion.
We see jake covering case after case each with brutal conviction. Soon enough he becomes a succesfull freelancer upgrading his cheap hatchback for a Camaro. In one of the chases, he arrives at a crime scene before the cops and becomes a key suspect in a triple homicide. We think, surely this must make him nervous. Little do we know that he plans to launch his career into the orbit by manipulating the media, police and everyone around him. The last 45 minutes of the movie is intense, taut and incredibly fast paced series of events which ends gruesomely.
Technically, this is a fantastic noir movie which aces in almost every department. Apart from a few logical lapses which are hollywoodesque this movie suffers from no illusion that it is a dark thriller set on disturbing the audience. Jake Gyllenhaal plays an incredible role of a life time depicting a hallow man devoid of morals, humanity or empathy.
The actual story is bare thread but is made exceptionally well supported by Robert Elswist (Cinematography) and a riveting soundtrack by James Newton Howard. Actually I know jack shit about making a movie and rather than copy pasting the cast and crew of the movie, I’ll spare my cringe worthy blushes.
Unfortunately, I predict that the movie will be swallowed or worse even forgotten due to the release of a behemoth that is Interstellar. But, Nightcrawler is an excellent tribute by Dan Gilroy to the other movies of this ilk such as “Machinist”, “Drive”, “The American” or even deriving some ideas from Di Nero’s Taxi Driver.
Do give Nightcrawler a watch, you won’t be disappointed