Mar 032015
 
Title: Nightcrawler
Genre: Thriller
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal,
Rene Russo,
Riz Ahmed,,
Bill Paxton.
Certificate: US: R
UK: 15
Picture: 16X9 (2.40:1)
Audio Format: Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English.
Runtime: 1 Hours 53 mins
Extras: Audio Commentary,
Behind The Scenes,
Studio: Entertainment One
Release Date: USA: February 10 2015
UK: March 02 2015
See If You Like: Drive

Written and directed by Real Steel story-man, and Bourne Legacy scribe Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler is a tense, twisting, edge-of-your-seat thriller with a powerhouse performance from leading man Jake Gyllenhaal (End of Watch); a different, dark, and multi-layered film about an out of work man who decides to break into the TV news business.

But Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal) doesn’t simply apply for a job like you or I would. No, after witnessing the filming of a car crash, he decides to buy a camera, and a police scanner, and goes looking to film the unfilmable; not only hoping to be the first on the scene and get the best shots to sell to the morning news networks, but blurring the line between observing the news, and participating in it; to the point where Lou is not only tampering with the scenes of accidents, but actively influencing stories before they unfold.

Like the car crashes, carjacking, murders, and home invasions Lou finds himself filming, Nightcrawler is impossible to turn away from, and a film which utilises every second of its near two-hour runtime to perfection in order to build not only a deep and multi-faceted character for us to follow, but draw us into Lou’s slightly twisted mindset, and the cutthroat nature of the business he’s entered; as while it’s clear there’s something off about Lou, one of the scariest things about Nightcrawler is the realism behind the impossibly cold, detached, ratings-driven news editors and producers who’ll do anything to get their shot, and the freelance “stringers” who spend their nights chasing death, courting misery, and trampling over anyone and everyone to get it.

Gyllenhaal delivers the performance of his career, and it’s a true travesty he failed to get the recognition he deserved during awards season, as his portrayal of the creepy, driven, morally ambiguous Lou Bloom is simply mesmerising (like the entirety of the film); not only did he go as far as to lose 20 pounds for the role (that’d be a stone-and-a-half in real weight), and end up giving Lou a distinctly slimy, and sickly, look which perfectly fits his slightly off-kilter character, but he’s excellent at delivering Lou’s fast-talking monologues, and has you not only fearing him, and being intimidated by him (Lou can be especially tense, and strong-willed at times), but spending a good deal of the film in awe of him (he’s so sure of himself, and the way in which he closes deals is exceptional), and wanting to be just a little bit like him, despite at times also feeling sorry for him.

Supporting stars were also well cast, and fill their roles well; Rene Russo (Outbreak) is fitting as the older-woman, and news director who’s somewhat past her time, and now clearly taking airing things she knows she shouldn’t in order to stay relevant; Riz Ahmed (Four Lions) is strong as the somewhat ambivalent protégé of Lou (appearing weak enough to be guided by Lou, but growing in his mistrust and moral convictions as the film moves ahead); and Bill Paxton (True Lies) is perfectly placed as the life-long stringer/cameraman who accidentally introduces Lou to the business (being as cocky, sure-handed, charismatic, and abrasive as you’d imagine); meaning every aspect of Nightcrawler’s casting was spot-on.

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Not only that, but the lighting and camerawork were astonishingly good (it’s the best looking movie since Drive), shot after shot was perfectly arranged, and filming even sidelined sequences as if they were from a news-report perspective was a brilliant move (as was showing the entire film from Lou’s perspective), and James Newton Howard’s score was perfect; creating an edgy, circus-like, triumphant sound as Lou interferes with his first accident and gets his winning shot, mirroring the character by growing increasingly darker, and more sinister, as Lou and the plot Lou delved deeper, and continued to blur the lines between what was acceptable.

Nightcrawler’s ending may seem to come out of nowhere, but it’s not only the best way the film could’ve ended, but a testament to the writing, and Gyllenhaal’s exceptional performance, which mean the two-hour runtime simply flies by; as you’ll be so drawn into the tense and engrossing, but always slightly uneasy, world inhabited by Lou Bloom; you won’t be able to turn away.

A masterful, newsworthy, all-round triumph of a film, Nightcrawler is sleek, slick, a little bit dangerous, and has an edge like steel; propelled by a faultless, career-defining, performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, a fantastically gripping story, and the unflinching need to know how it’ll all play out; this is the best the LA cityscape has looked since Drive, a true must-watch, and a film which demands to be seen again.

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Picture:

Being a largely low-lit film there were always potential problems for the Nightcrawler home release, but thankfully any concerns appear to have been wholly unfounded as excellent contrast, a popping and often vibrant colour palette (realising the nightlight of the city beautifully), and a strong level of detail ensure this is an easily watchable transfer.

Small details and textures remain strong, and aside from the intentionally cheap-looking footage shot on Lou’s cheap handheld cameras the image remains stable and crisp throughout. There are minor compression problems, a slight greying in some of the darker scenes which also bring a touch of lost detail along the way, but they’re extremely small problems which do little to undersell a strong DVD transfer, and only suggest the Blu-ray release could look even better.

Audio:

Likewise the 5.1 Dolby Digital track awarded to the Nightcrawler DVD release is excellent; immersive, enveloping, and heightening the tension whenever needs be through the use of consistent ambient noise, active (and sometimes aggressive) rear channel action, well grounded, always intelligible, dialogue, and a robust LFE track. Couple with solid directionality, fitting pans, and an always active sound field, this really is a great audio track.

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Extras:

Though Nightcrawler unfortunately comes to DVD with a clear lack of bonus content, as the only special features we get are an audio commentary (which is actually fairly engaging, easy to listen to, and rather informative; covering everything from scripting the film to casting editing, and everything in-between), and an all-too brief behind the scenes features which features interviews with key members of the cast and crew, as well as consultants, but has a slight EPK feel to it and is a bit of a let down, as a lengthier, more involved, making of features would’ve been very welcome on a film as original and well crafted as this.

The Bottom Line:

Yet despite the lack of impressive special features, the fact Nightcrawler comes to DVD with fantastic picture and audio quality, and is itself a clearly award-worthy film (it truly is a travesty Gyllenhaal wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for his part as Lou Bloom) makes it a must-buy. It’s an undeniably mesmerising cinematic masterpiece; something which is original, engaging, flawlessly acted, beautifully shot, and utterly thought-provoking. Nightcrawler is not only a must watch film, but a movie you’ll have to own because it’ll stay with you long your first showing, and demands a second viewing.

Matt Wheeldon@TheMattWheeldon.