Wednesday, June 1, 2016

What's on Netflix?: NIGHTCRAWLER

Welcome to another installment of WHAT'S ON NETFLIX?, where we pick out a film currently playing on Netflix and review it for the fans.  This week's selection is the 2014 neo-noir crime thriller... NIGHTCRAWLER.

When I first heard of the movie Nightcrawler, I honestly thought it was an X-Men spin-off movie about a slender blue mutant with teleporting powers, but it wasn't. While it didn't receive any Academy Award nominations for acting (we'll get to that later, trust me), it was highly praised by critics and received a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Nightcrawler stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis "Lou" Bloom, a  desperate man who floats from job to job trying to find work that he's passionate about. He stumbles into the odd-job of crime journalism in Los Angeles. Basically, he drives around every night with a police scanner looking for mayhem, trying to capture the "money shot" with his camcorder. He then sells the footage to the highest bidding news channel.

There is so much to love about this movie; the directing is solid, the acting is top-notch, the script is tight, and the story is inventive and fresh. While I knew Dan Gilroy directed this movie, I had no idea this was his first film as a director. That's a huge surprise, as he does a phenomenal job. Usually you can tell with a first-time director, but with Nightcrawler, it seems like it was directed by a seasoned veteran. Gilroy (who previously wrote Real Steel and The Bourne Legacy) also wrote the screenplay for this film, which was nominated for an Academy Award, but did not win.

Like I said, the acting in this movie is also top-notch, and it's a shame Jake Gyllenhaal didn't even get nominated for an Academy Award. I know awards aren't everything, but it feels good when the Academy gets it right. 2014 was a big year for lead actors, with Eddie Redmayne taking home the gold, but to this day, I still think Gyllenhaal should have been nominated over Bradley Cooper for American Sniper. Jake Gyllenhaal is a fantastic actor and one of my favorites recently. In Nightcrawler, he nails the character of Louis Bloom, who is a very complex character. He acts almost autistic, with a strong drive towards success. While having a strong drive, he comes across as extremely obsessive, very creepy, and also rather empty inside; he shows no emotion unless it's to manipulate someone.

Gyllenhaal plays every angle of his character perfectly. When Lou needs to be direct and loud, he nails it. When Lou needs to be calm and collected, he nails it. Even when Lou needs to let out some steam and anger, Gyllenhaal nails it. He is one of the best actors working today, and is constantly picking projects that let him explore his acting abilities, especially in this.

Rene Russo is also great in her role as a news director who relies on people like Louis Bloom to bring her shocking footage every night for the broadcast. She has several great scenes with Gyllenhaal, where they play off each other perfectly. She does a great job of acting uncomfortable around Lou, while at the same time being desperate for the money shot like Lou. Riz Ahmed plays Rick, a man desperate for work, and hired by Lou to be his assistant. He drives around L.A. with Lou every night, giving him directions and recording on a second camcorder. I've never seen Ahmed in another movie, but he does a solid job of acting alongside Gyllenhaal. Ahmed has recently been cast in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and after seeing his performance in Nightcrawler, I'm very excited to see him in another film.

I absolutely love the simple, yet fresh story of Nightcrawler. We as an audience get no back-story of Louis Bloom, no ties to his life before this movie, and no already-existing friends or family. The movie starts at a specific point in his life, and we get to watch as he becomes more and more successful. I won't get into spoilers, but the way the movie ends is different than what I thought would happen. Not many movies end the way Nightcrawler ends. Again, it's hard to explain what I mean without going into spoilers, but it was a great surprise and a perfect end to the movie.

The script is tight. That's a sentence I hear a lot from critics, but let me explain what I mean by that. When it comes to the script, here isn't much I would cut or add-in to tell the story better. Each scene fits perfectly leading into the next. There isn't a lot of fat to cut out, nor is there anything that needs to be added for exposition. The dialogue is smart and direct, especially Lou's. Dan Gilroy not only does a great job directing, but also writing this film. His next writing project is Kong: Skull Island in 2017, and hopefully it turns out great.

I loved almost everything about this movie, but there are a couple of things I thought could have been handled better. The first is a sub-plot involving two detectives. I don't want to get into spoilers, so all I will say is that I thought that whole sub-plot could have been handled a little better. It's not that it's bad, it just could have been done better. The second is the score. I liked the score for what it was, but it was rather simple and repetitive. It worked, but it could have been better. Those are the my only major nit-picks so I won't drone on any longer about them.

Nightcrawler is a fantastic movie with great acting and a fresh story and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to watch a really great film.

Josiah's Score: 9.5/10

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