Billed as a thriller, Nightcrawler was a film I didn’t catch in the theater but wanted to watch as soon as it hit Blu-ray — for one reason: Jake Gyllenhaal. An exceptional actor with a broad range, I make a point of watching his work and have yet to be disappointed (though some have been close). Enter Nightcrawler.
The story is crafted around an awkward personality who is constantly on the make, looking for angles, and taking advantage of people around him. Late night metal theft graduates into becoming a stringer (someone who films news events and sells the footage back to local stations). It is easy to see Gyllenhaal committed to the role with gusto because he lost a serious amount of weight to present the angular persona required. Additionally, his method of speech and demeanor perfectly captured the oddities of his character.
The plot builds with tension between Gyllenhaal’s character and a local new station production manager played by Rene Russo, and an odd relationship with his couch-surfing sidekick played by Riz Ahmed (perfectly, I might add). Everything goes dramatically sideways when Gyllenhaal happens upon and records a sensational home invasion where three people are murdered. One gets the sense there is more to the story and Gyllenhaal’s exceptional timing is no accident but, unfortunately, the viewer gets little confirmation of that hunch as the film progresses. Supporting characters try to point out the coincidence but eventually bend to Gyllenhaal’s machinations and refuse to take a stand on what is right or moral (crafting a news story then recording it). This is the where the film begins to lose its focus, and lost my attention.
After a long list of abhorrent choices by Gyllenhaal’s character, the viewer gets no sense of redemption as film comes to an unexpected conclusion. The tension, carefully crafted for the length of the film, simply disappears as the credits roll leaving a host of unanswered questions. Too many questions.
All in all, there was significant potential for Nightcrawlers. Gyllenhaal’s acting chops were on full display, the subject matter was unique, the plot fascinatingly intriguing — but missing a closure hurt the overall experience. For that reason alone, I’m forced to rate this film a Six out of Ten — worth a rental but be glad you didn’t catch it in the theater.