Arts & Entertainment

REVIEW: ‘Nightcrawler’ thrills with spine-chilling plot and cinematography

Crafting a brilliant balance of acting, story, and cinematography, "Nightcrawler" is near perfection. Grant Fitzgerald explains why the film is one of his favorite works of the year.

(Photo provided)
(Photo provided)

One night, Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) – also known as Lou –  stumbles across the rapidly beating heart of LA crime journalism. Driving around the city, he comes across a team of freelance cameramen at the site of a terrible car accident. From this moment, he is determined to acquire a job in this fascinating, high-stake world. Buying a cheap camera and police scanner, Lou is unwavering in his pursuit for footage of victims that he sells in turn for his own capital.

As it turns out, this career is perfect for a man like Lou, a man determined to make his place in the world – a man willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. He is intelligent, edgy and uncomfortably honest. By my diagnosis, he would most certainly be autistic because of his impaired social skills, rigid behavior and the particular care he gives to his work. But it is hard to label him under such a broad title.

At its core “Nightcrawler” is a character study, a psychological dive, inside the mind of Louis Bloom. Personally, I would consider him sociopathic. Every minute I sat in the theater, I yearned to understand his psyche a little more. Although the screenplay fed me what I wanted most, I became more and more disgusted with the man.

“Nightcrawler” is an exceptional piece of cinema. Finely tuned, the film executes a perfect balance of entertainment and craft, encompassing illustrious acting, writing and visual presentation. Gyllenhaal in particular is captivating as Louis Bloom. His performance as a horrific yet likable character is brilliant. I would compare his character to someone like Walter White (“Breaking Bad”) or Patrick Bateman (“American Psycho”). Much like Christian Bale’s performance in “American Psycho,” Gyllenhaal is so creepy, we would be appalled if he weren’t so finely dressed, intelligent and brutally (sometimes comically) honest.

The supporting actors were also terrific. Riz Ahmed’s performance as Rick, for example, is so beautifully nuanced, it is hard to really think of him as a character. Rather, he is an embodiment of the audience, acting and reacting to situations just as we might have in his position. The way Elswit and director/writer Dan Gilroy lingered on the characters – waiting to show us what they were seeing or observing – was genius. By withholding the truth, there were a number of times where they visually heightened the thrill of the revelation.

Cinematographer Robert Elswit’s camera work in “Nightcrawler” may very well be my favorite work of the year. Most of the film takes place at night under the gritty city lights. This immediately makes the film that much more uncomfortable. I must also note that they use of Lou’s camera footage is superb. Once again, it heightens the thrills and credibility of “Nightcrawler.”

“Nightcrawler” is a near masterpiece. It is comparable to the recent “Gone Girl.” I would go as far to say it is nearly as good. They are both different beasts, however, in the way that “Nightcrawler” isn’t as much a mystery as it is a psychological thriller. However, it is nonetheless a film that I think will be analyzed and more deeply appreciated within the upcoming years.


Grant Fitzgerald is a senior film production major. This review reflects the view of the writer only. 

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