Of the Gyllenhaal siblings I’ve always favored Maggie over Jake simply because a) Maggie is cuter, b) she has better taste in projects she picks and c) Jake tends to only do movies I have little to no interst in seeing. The first two are still valid, but it seems the third one might be on its way out as I keep finding myself more and more interested in movies starring Jake as of late. For example I’ve had my eye on multiple Enemy for awhile now, the new boxing flick Southpaw looks relatively promising even though it’s had a bit of a mixed reception, and the topic of this evening, Nightcrawler, proved out to be shockingly excellent. Perhaps there really is hope in Jake’s future for quality movies.
Initially Nightcrawler caught my attention with the surrounding Internet buzz it had after the first trailer was released. It seemed okay, but didn’t have much of a hook so I soon forgot about it. It was only after it had been out for quite some time and the insane critical acclaim started to pour in that it got back on my radar, and I relented and decided to file it under my future to-watch pile. Now in the following afterglow of having watched it, I have to admit I was a bit biased against Jake for not giving the movie a chance, as he really shines in it. Whether or not this was a one time thing or not is yet to be decided, but he certainly has made big enough impression on me now that I’m genuinely interested to see what kind of projects he’s going to pursue in the future.
As a movie, Nightcrawler is pretty devious little creature. It lures you in with an intriguing opening and then proceeds to slowly circle and wrap its tail around you like a snake, until it’s got strong enough grip on you to keep you glued to your seat until the very end. It’s very character driven movie, so much of what makes it so exciting comes directly from Jake’s performance as the main lead. He plays his character, Lou, in a very nuanced and charming way, which combined with Jake’s malnourished and skinny look makes Lou a very enigmatic and fascinating main character to follow. On the surface, Lou is oddly charismatic as a character because he’s played very much like your average underdog you want to cheer for. He’s got bit of a sleazy vibe to him, but it’s usually balanced by how sympathetic he seems. His endless streak of enthusiasm and sincere desire to make something out of himself is so endearing that for the most part you’re willing to overlook when he does something slightly illegal or questionable. Which is of course exactly what the movie wants you to do, and that’s where the more movie really starts to earn its keep. You were always a bit at odds with Lou’s methods to climb higher in the ladder to success, so when you start to see him pursue success with increasingly objectionable and sinister ways, the very thought that you ever had any sympathy for the guy starts to make you uncomfortable. It’s a very nasty and ingenious manipulation on the film’s part to pull such a subversive twist on you after making Lou seem so down on his luck fella trying to make it big, and that is exactly why it’s so horrific but captivating to keep watching as Lou reveals a layer upon layer of new nastiness under his public face facade.
It gets very voyeuristic and nasty towards the end. If you weren’t already finding Lou disturbing, the tipping point of no turning back comes in the pivotal house invasion scene, where Lou is shown to flat out lie and withhold evidence and information just so he can engineer a situation from which he can profit in the near future which results in a very shocking climax. By the time you reach the ending, you can’t but to feel a bit dirty for having watched the movie. You might even find yourself a bit disgusted for being so entertained by such a vile conclusion.