Praised as one of the best thrillers done in the past couple of years, I was of course very interested to see it. I didn’t manage to see it in theaters and had to go Bluray for this one. Even though I must admit that seeing it on the big screen would have been a treat. Especially for the beginning of the film.
The film starts with a nice moody buildup, for the overall atmosphere we are operating in, with this film. Really gorgeous night shots of Los Angeles. It builds a mood much like ‘Drive’ did in its opening minutes. The impression of a very fascinating city that still leaves no doubt that it will eat you alive when you’re not up to its speed. We meet Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) who immediately gives a very shady and weirdo impression. The praise Gyllenhaal gets for his performance really is deserved. He’s borderlining ‘over the top’ with his play… but manages to stay in believable territory. A very fine balance act he pulls off there. Louis tries to make a living with collecting scrap metal and sell it. He doesn’t shy away from illegal action and that’s made clear very early on in the movie. On his way home from, what seems like another night of trying to get some cash, he drives by a car accident. Creepily fascinated he stops and watches how two cops try to free a lady from a burning car wreck. Suddenly a van stops next to him and Joe Loder (Bill Paxton) rushes out. With a camera in his hand, he storms the scene and captures video material. Louis is immediately fascinated and tries to understand and find out what Joe is actually doing. Louis is hooked and knows what he wants to do. Crime journalism. He starts setting up his business and gets some low grade equipment to find a starting point. The driven intensity Gyllanhaal puts into his character is frightening. Louis is someone who has no conscience whatsoever. Now for him all that counts is to get the perfect material. He finds a local news station that buys his material and meets Nina Romina (Rene Russo) who is in charge. These two develop a really weird relationship throughout this film. Louis also hires a partner (Rick Garcia) to help him getting to find and get to locations faster. Together they ‘Nightcrawl’ Los Angeles, listening to police radio and try to collect crime material. Things start to spiral out of control when they manage to arrive at a crime scene before the police.
This movie is roughly 2hrs long and there is not a single second that did not glue me to the screen. The fact that parts of the movie seem to not be too far away from the truth of that business is really a scary thing. Gyllenhaals performance of a ruthless sociopath is mesmerizing. I honestly can’t believe he did not get an Oscar nomination for that. He’s the driving force in that movie. And while performances of Rick Gacia and Rene Russo are very good too… it is Gyllanhaal who really adds the depth and creep factor here.
From a technical standpoint I can only say that it’s solid work. I’m not sure if I would categorize it as a ‘Los Angeles movie’ like Drive or Collateral. But it certainly has the same nightish mood going on, that paints a great picture of the world that surrounds that city. The way the camera is using light, shadows and colours is a feast for the eye. The writing surely wasn’t easy for this film since it constantly balances the over the topness of Louis Bloom and the more grounded world that surrounds him. And except for a couple of times it completely works.
All characters in this film, even the far out Louis Bloom, have a realistic foundation to them. The rare action sequences are no big explosion fest and completely rely on buildup. Later in the film we have a car chase that leads to the finale of the movie. That car chase is photographed in a way that makes you feel like you’re right there with Louis and Rick. you feel the movement and kinetic energy. The moments when Louis is on a locations and shooting material… that glare in his eyes, his morbid fascination and drive to get the best material possible… is just fascinating to watch.
Overall I would highly recommend this film. It’s one of these rare movies that show things happening all around us in this world… yet it feels like it’s a completely different universe.