Jake Gyllenhaal is perfect as an obsessive news photographer

Eyes do not lie, more so when they don’t close. Enter Louis Bloom. An eccentric and obsessive, Bloom is often lacking expression. His eyes are wide, unusually round, and almost never closed. He is emotionless and cruel, a petty thief who through mere chance, becomes a freelance stringer.

Stringers, as presented here, are merciless. No wonder Bloom fits. They slither through a city’s darkness, slamming cameras into the face of victims. The deader or near death, the better. Stringers are often first responders, capturing charred metal or bloody bodies meant for network broadcast with a disclaimer. Those disclaimers mean more profit.

Bloom has no social boundaries. He’s a match for the uncouth and some may say perverse news cycle which soaks up violence or escalates fear. Camera in tow with a manipulated homeless man for his in-car partner, Bloom begins a climb away from the freelance life, morality be damned.

Jake Gyllenhaal is disturbingly perfect for the role of Bloom, a performance of such unnerving caution and calculation as to create a character merely by staring. His rants, often rising in volume without stumbling, are undoubtedly rehearsed. Everything is planned. Everything works too.

Nightcrawler does not look kindly on local news. Dan Gilroy’s script is ferocious in attacking the production practices and their casual racism. Rene Russo is used as a cruel, desperate backroom director whose already callous methodology slowly turns demented and warped when attached to Bloom. It’s not news; it’s staged, raw sensationalism.

Nightcrawler’s character development is frequently dazzling with such invisibility.

For many, it’s about money. Russo’s Nina is approaching sweeps week. Another stringer, Bill Paxton, amplifies his business with more trucks and more cameras. But not Bloom. He buys better cameras and a faster car, not necessarily for the money so much as the added detail. The adrenaline rush and resulting notoriety becomes an addiction to a person already caught in routine.

No doubt Bloom is obsessive compulsive. In his economical Los Angeles apartment, a small bed is always made and a plant is always watered on time. Nightcrawler’s character development is frequently dazzling with such invisibility. For a film caught in the grips of high pressure work, Nightcrawler is often subtle. That’s not just the script; it’s mostly Gyllenhaal’s astonishing execution of this character.

It is rare to see the word “classic” bandied about in contemporary criticism. Part of it is the cynicism which the internet has brought us, and another is the need for later retrospective. Even if most of Nightcrawler – with a surging pace and flawless intensification of its narrative – is not considered for such a meaningful designation, Gyllenhaal’s work will be. It’s not only career defining, it stands as some of the best work of the past decade or more. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Movie]

On the news set @ 36:10

Nightcrawler uses a mixture of digital and film to come together, seemingly bouncing between the two at will although cinematographer Robert Elswit states only day interiors/exteriors were done on film. Inside of the newsroom, almost always at night, there is a thick layer of noise. It has the consistency of grain, albeit thicker than most. Many can easily confuse the two given the appearance here.

Universal’s encode work is exceptional and Nightcrawler is a splendid looking film. Colors play host to an unnatural glow, a tinge of neon which holds the tone of the piece. This much color can feel ominous when placed against the depth of the black levels. Contrast is striking.

Fidelity is beautiful too, always rich in texture. Even in darkness, lights have prime position to enhance facial detail. Street lights cast a green or red glow onto many scenes, giving a sense of the exterior without showing it. This is not a simple cast of digital grading, although said process is clearly in play.

Such a visually intense space is prime for Blu-ray. Sharpness, or rather the uniformity of it, is rare. Focus is dense and the images are clear. It proves to be a clever accentuation to Bloom’s eerie perfectionism. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Video]

While channel transitions are almost universally excellent in Nightcrawler during street level material, this DTS-HD track is often missing. As Gyllenhaal rides a bike across the frame inside of a pawn shop spouting off a monologue, his dialog is distractingly centered. There’s no movement, not just of his voice but the bike too. This mix is not adventurous.

When offered a chance, this track works though. Sirens and ambient helicopters are on every accident scene. A third act vehicle chase excels. A handful of gunshots will need the services of the LFE for impact. It works. Nightcrawler is also keen on creating audible space, particularly in the hectic newsroom. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]

It’s a family affair for this commentary track, bringing Dan, Tony, and John Gilroy (writer/director, producer, and editor respectively) into the film’s space to discuss how it came together. It’s active and enjoyable. The only featurette is the strong but quick If It Bleeds, It Leads, a five minute piece mostly focusing on the job of a stringer. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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