My kind of thriller. Ever wonder who shoots the footage of the aftermath of tragedies that occur during the night, the kind that you typically see covered on morning news channels? This is about a strange young man (Jake Gyllenhaal), looking to break onto that scene with a newly purchased camera. This is shady, seedy and a number of similar adjectives, but more importantly, it is a taut and riveting story. For one thing, it is such a unique occupation that you don’t typically get to see in action. There’s a demand to it, as people getting ready for work in the morning want to be brought up to speed on all of the squalid activities that happened the previous night, but nobody really thinks about the process. There is some man with a camera and a police scanner, out in the night, who gets excited when something unsavory occurs.
This movie is anchored by a committed powerhouse performance by Jake Gyllenhaal. He’s not even that likable of a character, but he’s the protagonist, so much like his sole employee (Riz Ahmed), you’re kind of stuck with him. It’s almost like he has some type of Asperger’s, and he is a fascinating character to observe because what makes him tick is so noticeably different than anybody else. He is ambitious, driven, and dreams big, and there is no line that he won’t cross to advance himself in his career. He’s also creepy as can be; he has these intense, bug eyes the entire time that makes you feel uneasy, and it’s even worse when he smiles. He is obsessed with his work, and being that his job is so morbid and morally questionable, it’s both sickening and captivating at the same time. The most flabbergasting thing is that he is great at his job, and as the story progresses, you witness him being more and more underhanded and unprincipled to get what the news station wants.
This may seem tangential, but this reminds me a lot of the song “Vicarious” by Tool; so much of our society and culture is enchanted with death and dark material, have you ever stopped and asked yourself why? In addition to being an enthralling character study, this offers excellent commentary on the media as a whole, as crimes and immoral acts monopolize so much as what is covered on the news. There is so much focus on the misery of others that gets fed into people’s living rooms, it kind of makes you feel dirty and nauseous. The closer the shot, the bloodier the victim, and the more repulsive the crime the better, and this does affect you on a cerebral level. This reminds me a bit of all of the best parts to L.A. Noire set in modern times, and I was highly impressed with almost every single aspect to this.
Nightcrawler (2014) *****
– Critic for Hire
Want to see where this fell in my list of best films of the 2014? See for yourself here.