Jake Gyllenhaal is the new Christian Bale (American Psycho/Equilibrium/The Machinist era). It goes beyond the physical transformation that Gyllenhaal had to endure before and after Nightcrawler (he immediately gained 15 pounds of muscle for the upcoming Southpaw, written by Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter), similar but not quite as extreme as Bale’s notorious weight loss on The Machinist. Nightcrawler solidifies Gyllenhaal as the king of the dark character study. His turns in the Denis Villeneuve-helmed Prisoners and Enemy already placed Gyllenhaal ahead of his contemporaries, but he is deserving of a few trophies come awards season with his performance as despicable anti-hero Lou Bloom in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler. Bloom slowly develops into a nighttime scavenger of gory accident and crime footage, which he sells to overnight news producers.
Gilroy paints a nighttime Los Angeles with exquisite detail, and the city becomes an essential character of the film. Much credit for the gorgeous visuals needs to be directed toward acclaimed cinematographer Robert Elswit (P.T. Anderson’s longtime DP). Elswit is actually Jake Gyllenhaal’s godfather, and Nightcrawler was the first film they worked on together. As he’s discussed in interviews, the Oscar-winning cinematographer used mostly available lighting for backgrounds with minimal lights on actors due to the constrained shooting schedule and numerous locations around the city. The resulting digital film images of the outskirts of LA look spectacular. Dan Gilroy’s brother John edited the film with a meticulous and anxious pace. Renee Russo (Gilroy’s wife) is perfect as overnight news producer Nina, and Bill Paxton brings a little Private Hudson from Aliens to his role as Joe Loder, Bloom’s equally despicable competitor. The resolution of conflict between these two characters is a masterstroke of storytelling, although incredibly deplorable on the part of Bloom. According to IMDB, Nightcrawler cost $8.5 million to make. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed Interstellar. However, the thought that 20 films like Nightcrawler can be made with the same budget just made me throw up in my mouth a little.