Dan Gilroy’s first directorial effort is a Michael-Mann-ish looking film called Nightcrawler. Hungry Jake Gyllenhaal ends up shooting video footage for the ambitious Rene Russo and becomes increasingly obsessed with getting amazing shots, even if he has to fake them. Ultimately this drags him into a murder plot.
I haven’t seen this film yet. This is the sort of film I’d probably not go to see if not for the glowing ratings. As I mentioned, it looks very Mann-ish, and I am not a Mann man. Also, it’s big claim to fame is that it’s a thriller. And we are probably having worse luck with so-called “thrillers” than with horror movies.
I think they use “thriller” to sell any drama, no matter how plodding, if any aspect of the resolution is in doubt.
But Gilroy wrote Tarsem’s The Fall, which is his best film by a long shot, in no small part because of the story the effects could be hung on. He also wrote The Bourne Legacy, among other things. But in all his previous work as just-a-writer, he probably didn’t have much clout. But this baby is his.
And it’s being showered with awards. So it’s gotta be good, right?
Actually, yeah, it’s really good. And the trailers are both weirdly spoiler-y and completely misleading in ways that I can’t describe without spoiling it. My summary, above, based on the trailer grossly misrepresents the actual shape of things. Heh.
Gyllenhaal is just great. The supporting crew is very good: Riz Ahmed as the sidekick, Bill Paxton in a smaller, sweet role as a competitor and Rene Russo. Rene Russo is especially good as an aging news director seeing her salvation in Gyllenhaal. Also, given that I praise French women for looking their age, I’m should praise Russo as well: She looks her age, and if she’s had work done, I don’t see it—but she looks good. Which is all the more remarkable given her character is one who’s a little desperate, cynical and bitter.
But ultimately, Gyllenhaal has to power the movie and he does.
So, will you like it? Well, it’s dark, darkly comic, cynical, a directly scathing indictment of news media and by extension an indirectly scathing indictment of society, tense, suspenseful and horrifying.
Once I got a handle on the kind of story it was, I had a strong idea how it was going to end—and I could list some similar films, but that could spoil it, and a lot of people will be surprised by how it turns out.
It was a lot of fun. But remember, I have odd ideas about what’s “fun”. The Flower also really enjoyed it—but her sense of humor is a lot like mine. The Boy was a little cooler toward it, though he definitely liked it, and very much appreciated the suspense. He nitpicked the climax a bit; he felt it was a little unrealistic, that I can’t tell you without a spoiler.
I thought maybe it was unrealistic for a different reason, that I can tell you about without spoiling: The police are called to Western Avenue and 3rd Street, which is about 3 miles from the Rampart Station—a big LAPD station in LA. I used to live in that area and when I called the cops, they would be there in seconds.
So I thought the movie showed them taking too long to get there, and it looked like they weren’t even the ones who had been called. In other words, they maybe just moseyed in on accident. Minor point, at best. But the sort of thing that you could expect from me watching a movie taking place in L.A. (which adds to the fun for me, of course).
The Flower and I would probably put it in our top 10, while The Boy said it was more a top 20—which I think is more a statement on where he felt it belonged rather than being able to name 19 better other movies.
It’s been an odd year: There’ve been very many good, even very good movies, but not so many great ones. I suspect our assessment for the Best of 2014 will be very documentary heavy.
Still, this was a good film to close the year out on.