Jake Gyllenhaal traverses the dark side of the human psyche in Nightcrawler, a contemporary Film Noir that has made waves at the US box office.
The October/November box office period is often described as the calm before the storm. It provides a chance for studios to ‘drop off’ (as opposed to ‘dump’ which usually occurs in February) a variety of product, clearing the way for tentpole films and Oscar contenders in December.
It also provides a good opportunity to release without competition or to target more niche audiences. Take for instance David Ayer’s Fury grossing $23 million in its opening weekend or David Fincher’s Gone Girl, achieving over $150 million during its seven week run.
Essentially though, it’s the domain of the Indie; of schlock horror films, low budget action movies and black comedies. Not all films thrive here but some excel and one such film is Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler. Having opened to over $10 million on its estimated $8.5 million budget, it has now grossed $25 million with a worldwide release to come.
Nightcrawler stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis Bloom, a recluse who maniacally consumes information from the Internet. He runs petty scams, mostly at night, but his ambitions of a career have largely gone unrecognised until he witnesses freelance cameraman Joe Loder (Bill Paxton) covering a fiery auto crash on the motorway. The next morning the footage appears in a news bulletin and Lou has an epiphany.
Praying on human misery, the self-made Lou is clinical. He is a mouse click away from anything he needs to know and he understands how to operate and how to manipulate. This ambition appeals to Nina Romina (Rene Russo), a news director who treads the ethical knife-edge in search of ratings. It is not long, however, before she finds herself a target in Lou’s path to success.
Gyllenhaal’s performance is stunningly grotesque. It’s as if Lou was built, not born. Speaking on Gyllenhaal’s drastic transformation for the role, Gilroy mentioned “in order to lose the weight he was literally starving himself and there was this wild, feral energy that started coming out of the character.” It was not until the editing phase though that Gilroy noticed that Lou barely blinks. Like a machine or perhaps even a wild animal Lou is constantly contemplating his next move.
Gilroy has had some mainstream success as a writer (The Bourne Legacy), but it seems, left to his own devices, he possesses quite a unique voice. He is undoubtedly versed in cinema and blessed with the talent of Gyllenhaal and the cinematography of Robert Elswit his vision has successfully been translated to the screen.
LA looks remarkable at night. The golden hue of the sprawling metropolis provides the perfect backdrop to this nightmarish story. Elswitt’s economical framing too matches the cold efficiency of Lou. One particular shot pitting Loder’s blue van in the safety of his garage against Lou’s red GT obscured in the distance foreshadows the nefarious events to come. Simple and effective.
The true power of Nightcrawler comes in the realisation that Lou Bloom is not Frankenstein’s monster nestled away on the hill but rather one that we’ve all helped to create. He is a product of the information age where life is cheap and death sells.
As such it is a tale of contemporary disillusionment. Like Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver or Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive, it speaks of those who linger in the fringes; the loaners, the dispossessed and the victim’s of society. Lou, the anti-hero, holds a mirror up to the audience. What transpires behind his twisted smile and sardonic laugh few people know but surely all of us can recognise. Unlike its counterpart Drive, Nighcrawler is neither flattering nor sexy, yet it is 2014’s underdog and a certainly a cult classic in the making.
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton
Director: Dan Gilroy
Budget: $8,000,000 (est)
Aus Distributer: Madman
Nightcrawler is released nationally November 27, 2014