Gyllenhaal gives Oscar-worthy performance, best of career

By Preman Koshar, Layout Assistant ||

Nightcrawler, directed by Dan Gilroy, is the cinematic equivalent of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. The film slinks slowly through the plot, hiding mostly in the shadows, and only coming out to smile and bare its teeth at the audience.

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the protagonist of this film, but only in that he is the main character, not that he is the hero or “good guy.” Lou is a petty thief, who, after seeing a nightcrawler, or freelance cameraman who sells his videos of crimes and tragedies to the media, at work, decides to become one himself. Lou turns out to be quite skilled at camerawork and soon delves into this morally ambiguous field. The crimes he films and the actions he takes to have the best clip become more and more immoral and edge closer and closer to illegality.

“Nightcrawler’s” high point is in its acting, with Gyllenhaal as the eccentric, sociopathic and highly unpredictable Lou Bloom. Gyllenhaal lost over 20 pounds for this role, and it shows. He’s scrawny and lithe, and he’s very agile. His hair is beyond greasy. He smiles in a simultaneously disarming and creepy way, and he seamlessly blends the childlike innocence of someone with a mental disability with the careful intelligence and plotting skills that truly epitomizes a budding sociopath who has managed to (mostly) blend in with society. The supporting actors and actresses not only don’t disappoint, they accentuate the film’s dark moodiness.

The cinematography is also significantly above average: there are several well-put-together montages of Los Angeles life, as well as cinematographic pans that show a clear passage of thought. There are also a few exhilarating shots during car chases that obviously involved mounting a camera to the hood of a speeding car.

The plot starts out a bit slow, but I didn’t mind, as it was fascinating to watch Gyllenhaal embody this oddity of a man and see him grow as a character.

The second half of the film picks up the pace considerably, however, and bodies and excitement quickly build up. The dialogue, while not astounding, is well-matched to the characters. It’s quick, snappy, and clearly emphasizes Lou’s eccentricities and borderline insanity, as well as how he affects those around him. Their dialogue changes to emulate his as he influences them more and more.

The only obvious low point of the film is, actually, the score. The music in Nightcrawler is meant to be unnerving, but instead it is simply nerve jangling.  The score changes the tone of the film repeatedly and often in very jarring ways. While some might consider this a unique style, or artistic in some way, it ends up coming across as unprofessional and, frankly, immature. The director was trying to show the juxtapositions evident throughout the film and the unnatural aspects of it, but instead I was distracted by music that made no sense to the context and was generally unpleasant. Otherwise, however, Nightcrawler was a roaring success.

Nightcrawler is an unusual movie, to say the least. It emphasizes mental eccentricities and the dangers a sociopath poses to society, while having a commentary about how and what is consumed in the media. How much violence can and should there be? Where is the line between sharing the news and violating individual’s privacy? These are all questions expertly posed by Nightcrawler and are important ones to ask.

Overall, Nightcrawler is a terrific thriller with phenomenal acting that is only marred by a poor choice of score and general tone. The film, directed by novice director Dan Gilroy, is a victory.

First-year Preman Koshar is a layout assistant. His email is pkoshar@fandm.edu.

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One comment to “Gyllenhaal gives Oscar-worthy performance, best of career”
  1. It really is a shame that you did not appreciate the film’s soundtrack or “general tone.” I find it interesting you didn’t enjoy those component but enjoyed the film as a whole.

    The style of Nightcrawler was meant to reflect the media Lou was capturing in the film. As I agree Nightcrawler is social commentary, if not a blatant societal assertion, the film is pointing a finger back at the viewer.

    You address the critical questions: “How much violence is acceptable?” and “How and what is consumed in the media?” However, I believe Nightcrawler itself is the embodiment of these answers that are being questioned within the film.

    Lou shoots hastily and unprofessionally (despite being told he has a good eye). Let’s be honest, what he shoots is shit. However, the station eats it up and he is well on his way to success. Nightcrawler, the film itself, follows the same line of reasoning and cinematic style. The film is grainy, hastily put together, and never shot on a tripod (if I recall). Like Lou’s footage and the news station, we eat up Nightcrawler (whether we enjoy it or not).

    This goes back to the music. Gilroy employs the same unprofessional, campy music used in news intros and B-List action movies. It’s supposed to be “immature” as you put it. That’s the point of the entire film! Nightcrawler is a manifestation of the violent crap we and the news station in the film eat up. Again, the film itself is an example of what is being questioned within the film.

    We view and call Lou an “eccentric sociopath”, but is he really that much different than you and me? We both spent money to watch action and violence. You, me and Lou share and consume the same violence and action in a desensitized, ravenous manner. That’s the point Gilroy is trying to make with Nightcrawler. The grainy, shaky style and campy music drives this point home.

    If you recall, at the very end when Lou walks out of jail, he breaks the fourth-wall. Lou stares directly into the audience. Judge Lou as much as you want, but we’re all the same when it comes to the content we consumer and the manner in which we do so.

    – Matt Klein ’15

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