It is hard to make me feel uncomfortable in a movie, which is probably not a good thing but is my reality regardless. The Grudge is the only horror movie to date that scared the stuffing out of me and made me really jump from my seat. There have been tense moments in other movies, for instance, the skyscraper scene in Mission Impossible 4 made my palms sweat because I’m scared of heights and that IMAX screen was huge. When a movie is able to draw you into the point that you feel something visceral or you find yourself holding your breath, that’s a good film. Nightcrawler’s trailer made it look like it could be one of those movies that make the audience feel something and most likely it would be an uncomfortable feeling. So, was it or was it another trailer promising good things and delivering nothing?
Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a very determined and motivated young man looking for a job in a down economy. Problem is most people won’t hire a thief who steals chain link fence and manhole covers in the middle of the night. One night he finds himself near a car accident and sees Joe (Bill Paxton) pull up in a van with an assistant and two high end camcorders. Joe begins to film the accident and tells Lou that he sells it to local television news stations. Inspired, Lou buys a camcorder and a police scanner to try and make some money by beating Joe to a crime or accident. When he gets a good shot he of a man dying, he sells it to Nina (Rene Russo) at a nearby television station. She informs him that he can contact her with anything else he can find because he has an incredible eye for film. As Lou becomes more determined and excited for his work, he starts to cross certain moral lines that could have some big repercussions for him.
This is a great film that shows the seedier side of the news business, especially in Los Angeles. Gyllenhaal turns in his best performance to date and he mesmerizing to watch. Every time he is on screen you can’t look away, he is charismatic, manic and an incredibly interesting character. The way he decided to play the character is brilliant His lines are delivered fast and confidently and sound like he’s reading from cue cards he memorized, but that is the great effect about his character, it draws you in. Rene Russo is great, as usual. A strong character that knows she’s in a business that make compromises regardless of how much she thinks she is above it all. Paxton expands on his dirtbag character from True Lies and it works well to add to the drabness. Riz Ahmed does a commendable job in his role as Lou’s assistant and he plays it subtly and innocently. When his character finally finds his confidence, not only do you worry for him but you believe him. The film looks great with some incredibly filmed action sequences that tense your muscles up. The way in which the cinematographer decided to shade this film with dreary colors suits it well and helps to add to the tension of what is happening on screen.
That trailer delivered on what it promised. This is the definition of suspense, you have no idea how each scene is going to play out and it is tremendous fun. Many times I was surprised by decisions characters make and I usually pride myself in knowing what is going to happen. This movie is also a well told story about the participation trophy generation. In the midst of his character, Gyllenhaal has the entitled sensibility rampant in the generation that was raised by self esteem doctrine. He does work hard, but he will get the job done immorally if possible and at the expense of others with little to no integrity. Sounds too familiar in this day and age.
Probably one of the better performances I have seen in awhile because of how engaging Gyllenhaal is. See this movie if you like suspense and gripping movies that take you into a world you’re not used to being in. Language and violence warning.
3 and ½ stars out of 4