Film Review: Nightcrawler

There has been a lot of hype recently about Nightcrawler and specifically about the performance of Jake Gyllenhaal. His depiction is apparently so striking and impressive that there has been serious mentions of award success, as well as, the much over used “career defining breakthrough” phraseology.

I, as with a lot of movies recently, have been a little bit torn as to whether I really wanted to see Nighcrawler. The reviews and praise of Gyllenhaal drew me towards it, but when I finally saw the trailer while waiting for Gone Girl to start, I wasn’t instantly sold. I’d heard it to be a gritty, dark, twisted tale about the arguably immoral world of American crime journalism. And yet, the trailer seems to portray a very different tone. There is glitz, and while not glamour, it certainly appeared to be a much glossier and faster paced film than I expected to see.

Thankfully though, the implications of speed and tone created by the trailer don’t pan out into the feature. The film is nothing like as reflective, or as fast paced as implied. In fact, I’d almost be tempted to go as far as to say that the trailer verges on the border of misleading because the film I was treated was so far removed for its teaser origins.

Jake Gyllenhaal & Riz Ahmed - Nighcrawler

Sadly, Nightcrawler is just a bit too much of a mash up to ever really work. For me, this was very much a case of somebody creating a character, and then finding a world into which to place them. And because the character they have created is so disconnected and far removed from what society would consider “normal” that when you place them into a situation, which is also, as wildly removed from normal, as the world of crime scene film making is, that the two just never marry up in a way that you can even attempt to connect to, understand, or accept. This movie, for me at least, just asked too much to really seem belieavable.

The weird part with that though is that this world really does exist and the actions of the characters really do take place. The world of Crime Journalism in not an invented figment of any imagination. There are teams of people all over America, racing the emergency services to violent atrocities in the hope of landing that perfect shot in the pursuit of the next pay cheque. But that’s the point. It’s a very American activity. And I’m a very British man. We don’t have this type of journalism in the UK and therefore, I find the actions of these characters very hard to understand and accept. There motives never sit easy with me.

It’s that lack of ease, that lack of understanding that meant I didn’t really like the plot. This world just felt wrong. It felt like something only Hollywood could imagine, pushing the limits to their extremes and yet, the whole time I knew it was born out of truth and actuality. That it was real. And this meant I never really sank into the movie. I never felt completely involved; because I didn’t want to be. I didn’t want to get up and leave but I didn’t want to enjoy it either. This is proven by the fact that I looked at my watch a handful of times as the movie progressed. It didn’t struggle to keep my attention. It never really had it.

Data (Brent Spiner) - Star Trek - Nighcrawler

And with the plot struggling to find a home with me, I therefore, pinned a lot onto the performance of Gyllenhaal, who while providing a stunning transformation into the gaunt, hollow and slightly unnerving Louis Bloom, feels at large parts of the film totally robotic. His look, mannerisms and sadly, lack of empathy and compassion in the script combined to create a mental image of Data from Star Trek, rather than the socially removed, but ultimately talented, lead character I think I was meant to find.

And it’s so annoying, because you can see what writer and director Dan Gilroy was trying to achieve. You can see in Nightcrawler the idea of a character who is removed from the world. Who almost doesn’t understand how the world actually works. It’s like somebody who’s entire thinking and rationale on right and wrong and what it takes to achieve, is based solely on those yellow “…for Dummies” books. But the setting, the interaction of the characters and the plot and the language used just never sit together properly as a whole. I honestly think that as a film, it is a lot of brilliant ideas and topics which sadly lack the strength of glue to bind them together.

Matthew McConaughey - Dallas Buyers Club

While Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance is good, it is in my view not award season good. I think a lot of people are just looking at his transformation and comparing it to Matthew McConaughey’s in Dallas Buyers Club. But it’s a case of 1+1=3. McConaughey backed his metamorphosis up with a performance of note. I don’t think Gyllenhaal does. I think that the better way to look at it is to totally ignore McConaughey, and instead compare Gyllenhaal’s performance to that of Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, and when you do that, you realise just how far short of note Jake sadly falls.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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