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Blu-ray Review Nightcrawler Blu-ray Review - Recommended

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Kevin EK, Feb 10, 2015.

  1. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    Nightcrawler Blu-ray Review - Recommended

    Nightcrawler creeps onto Blu-ray with an edition that presents this disturbing film in solid high definition picture and sound. This look into the rise of an unscrupulous video ambulance chaser is as unblinking as its main character, played with unsettling commitment by Jake Gyllenhaal. Given the simplicity of its plot, it’s surprising how quickly the two hours of the film rockets along, propelled both by Gyllenhaal and the work of the Brothers Gilroy behind the camera. The Blu-ray provides a great presentation of the film in high definition, along with a thorough commentary and a short featurette. On the strength of the movie and the presentation, this release is Recommended for purchase or rental.


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    Studio: Universal

    Distributed By: N/A

    Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

    Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

    Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA

    Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

    Rating: R

    Run Time: 1 Hr. 58 Min.

    Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraViolet

    Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

    Region: ABC

    Release Date: 02/10/2015

    MSRP: $34.98



    The Production Rating: 3.5/5

    Who am I? I’m a hard worker. I set high goals and I’ve been told that I’m persistent. My motto is if you want to win the lottery, you’ve got to make money to get a ticket.”

    -Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) in Nightcrawler (2014)

     

    Why not me? Why not? A guy can get anything he wants as long as he pays the price. What’s wrong with that? Stranger things have happened.”

    -Rupert Pupkin (Robert DeNiro) in The King of Comedy (1983)


    Before saying anything else, I’ll just start with the fact that Nightcrawler is an extremely strong movie. It has a tight (and witty) script, an electric central performance from Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom. Its presentation is as solid as you could wish, coming from writer/director Dan Gilroy, editor John Gilroy and producer Tony Gilroy (veteran of the Bourne franchise, as well as Michael Clayton and Duplicity). It’s the simple story of the rise of an amateur video operator who roams Los Angeles with a police radio scanner, hoping to get footage he can sell to a local station. (The sad truth is that there are multiple teams of guys doing this all over the world – it’s possibly the lowest form of paparazzi in existence.) As Bloom himself puts it, “I’d like to think if you’re seeing me, you’re having the worst day of your life.” The movie is well shot, with bright daylight scenes captured on film and stark night scenes captured on an Alexa. The score from James Newton Howard is a mixture of traditional orchestra, synths and even some electric guitar thrown in for good measure. The supporting cast is also strong, from Rene Russo’s bloodthirsty producer to Riz Ahmed’s turn as Lou’s long-suffering employee to the great Bill Paxton, who has a great time here playing a veteran nightcrawler. The Paxton scenes have a particular crackle to them, as the viewer watches Paxton and Gyllenhaal’s characters bounce off each other in surprising ways. On the strength of the movie, coupled with a fine HD presentation on this Blu-ray, and supported by a fairly solid commentary by all three Gilroys, I must Recommend this release.

    But there is a catch. Nightcrawler is a solid movie and one that is very much worth seeing. And at the same time, it is a deeply unsettling movie. Dan Gilroy refers to the movie as a “success story” for Lou Bloom, and he’s right about that on a technical level. The movie tracks Lou’s rise without overtly judging him for his actions. And yet, with every police call he piggybacks to a crash or a shooting or a fire, there is an extremely strong sense of the sheer wrongness of what Lou is doing. One of Lou’s first attempts at coverage takes him to an arrest scene, where the police officer forcefully tells him to turn his camera off and move away. One might think that was a hint, but Lou doesn’t take it. He just keeps at the idea with other calls, working to get himself to the next crime scene before all the police show up to kick him out. Watching these scenes unfold is disturbing on multiple levels – because the Gilroys are putting the viewer next to a character who keeps doing things where the natural instinct is to yell at the screen “Get out of there! You’re going to get caught!” It’s a form of vicarious villainy, but done in a manner that puts the viewer uncomfortably close to ground zero. As a result, it’s a movie that may not lend itself to repeat viewings. I am more than impressed by this movie, and I’m pleased I was able to see it. I don’t know that I want to watch it again any time soon.

    SPOILERS: What gives Nightcrawler its truly uncomfortable edge is the unflinching manner in which it presents a complete sociopath. It’s not an accident that Jake Gyllenhaal not only lost nearly 30 pounds to play the coyote-like character, but that he also chose to avoid blinking on camera whenever possible. Neither he nor the movie are avoiding the horror of what Lou Bloom is doing – and the fact that Bloom is completely oblivious to anything being wrong with it. There are multiple antecedents to this character in film history, but the one that really jumps to the fore is Robert DeNiro’s Rupert Pupkin in The King of Comedy. Both Rupert and Lou are guys at the bottom end of society who are fine to literally climb over bodies to get themselves where their ambitions take them. Rupert’s a no-talent comedian who worships TV host Jerry Langford and fantasizes about being as successful as him. Lou is a bottom feeder looking for the way he can rise to the top, if he has to steal, cheat and even do violence to get there. Both men start their stories with smaller levels of odd behavior – Rupert with uninvited and unwanted visits to Langford’s office and house, Lou with petty theft and assault. As the stories unfold, both men commit further and further nefarious acts – Rupert by kidnapping Langford, Lou by trespassing into crime scenes and moving bodies, etc.. (As a sidenote, it’s interesting to watch the byplay between Bill Paxton’s Joe Loder and Gyllenhaal’s Lou. Paxton’s character is in it for the money, and he’s both ruthless and nasty about his business – something Paxton is clearly having a blast playing. But while Loder is immoral, he’s not the creature that Lou is. Loder knows he’s breaking various rules and doesn’t care. Lou doesn’t even realize those rules exist. Early on, it’s clear that Loder has a strong upper hand in handling the nightcrawler work. In the characters’ final moment together, it’s apparent that Loder was no match for Lou. One might even think we can see actual fear in Loder’s eyes, while we see nothing but unfeeling, unblinking intensity from Lou.)

    MORE SPOILERS: In both The King of Comedy and Nightcrawler, Rupert and Lou are obsessed with television as a vehicle for their success. Rupert longs to be the celebrity that Jerry Langford will interview in front of millions of people. Lou wants to see his work shown on television and credited to him. And if there’s a major difference between these two sociopaths, it’s in the fact that Rupert’s successes are all in fantasy, while Lou’s are sadly real. It may be a sign of how we’ve developed as a culture, after years of COPS and Jersey Shore and every other reality show we’ve seen over the past 25 years. But it’s a sad commentary that Rupert Pupkin’s shenanigans in 1983 land him in jail, while Lou’s crimes in 2014 bring him greater and greater success. Because Lou’s material has an audience. And not only that, but he’s undeniably GOOD at it. Rupert Pupkin is a joke in 1983. Lou Bloom by all measures should be a joke in 2014, but he isn’t. He’s actually found a way to succeed. If anything, the joke is on us.

    LAST SPOILERS: What makes this really disturbing throughout the movie isn’t just that Lou never seems to get caught. It’s that Lou is rewarded for his bad acts, and the worse those acts get, the bigger his reward. (Granted, we can discuss that his final car chase is so outrageous he would never have gotten away with it – an amateur video guy joining in a police chase would be pulled over and arrested, or at the least become part of the story himself in the inevitable helicopter coverage…) Because Lou keeps succeeding, he goes farther and farther over the line. First he’s just trespassing into a crime scene. Then he’s manipulating evidence in a house that’s been shot up. Then he’s moving a body so he can get a better shot. (This is one of the moments where the viewer wants to reach into the screen and throttle him) Then he’s sabotaging his competitor’s van and then filming the accident scene! Which means he’s now actually generating the news he wants to be the first one to film! Which translates to the movie’s climax, where he’s inserted himself into a wild shootout and chase that would never have happened if he’d turned over the material he had which could have identified the other bad guys to the police. So he’s now becoming the story himself. By the time he’s done in the movie, he’s betrayed and manipulated every single person around him. Even his poor assistant, who gets the ultimate punishment for finally standing up for himself. The final shot of Lou in the movie shows us the most unsettling bit of all – not only has Lou’s business succeeded, but it’s expanded as he now has a full team and two vans in his arsenal. And like a virus, it’s spreading. One is left with the impression of having watched a human cockroach start his nest. As I said, this is a mesmerizing experience, but not one I plan to repeat.

    Nightcrawler is being released this week on Blu-ray and DVD. The Blu-ray includes the movie in high definition, along a commentary and a short featurette. The DVD includes the movie and the extras in standard definition. The Blu-ray includes the DVD edition in the packaging, along with instructions for downloading a digital copy.

     

     

     

     

    Video Rating: 4.5/5  3D Rating: NA

    Nightcrawler is presented in a 2.40:1 1080p AVC encode (@ an average 31 mbps) that presents the dual nature of this movie’s production in lovely detail. The daylight scenes, shot on film, have a deep level of detail, with both foreground and background elements showing up nicely. An early scene with Gyllenhaal and Ahmed in a diner is a great example of this, as the background details outside the windows crowd the interior action. The night scenes, shot on Alexa cameras, show solid black levels and strong details between fully lit interiors and partially lit exteriors. The movie relies on a constant use of lower-quality video recordings to show Lou Bloom’s work, and the transfer shows a decided, intentional difference when we switch to those views. The transition between film and Alexa work, on the other hand, is seamless. Rene Russo’s makeup is particularly apparent onscreen in her earliest scenes, but this may be an intentional effect.


    Audio Rating: 4.5/5

    Nightcrawler has an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix (@ an average 4.1 mbps) that stays in the front channels during dialogue scenes, but expands into the surrounds as soon as Lou Bloom goes on the road. The climactic chase sequence features sounds running through all the surround channels as the situation gets farther and farther out of control. As normal for these mixes, the score finds its way into the surrounds and the subwoofer gets some use for punctuation here and there. Overall, the sound mix is actually a bit quieter than one might expect, particularly when it comes to scenes of gunfire – but this is likely a sonic manifestation of Lou Bloom’s detachment from the reality we are seeing.


    Special Features Rating: 3/5

    Nightcrawler comes with a thorough commentary from the Brothers Gilroy, as well as a short featurette. The funny thing is, the commentary pretty much covers everything you’d want to know about the making of the movie, and the featurette fills in what little remains. The only drawback here is that the commentary discusses multiple deleted scenes not included on the disc, which might have helped inform the discussion.

    Feature Commentary with Dan Gilroy, Tony Gilroy and John Gilroy – (AVAILABLE BOTH BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This scene-specific commentary with the Brothers Gilroy goes through plenty of details about the making of the movie and the inspiration behind it. Dan Gilroy talks at length about his work on the movie, including his early meetings with Jake Gyllenhaal, a KTLA shoot that had to be accomplished in very short hours, and his feelings about the meaning of various shots near the ending of the movie. All three brothers discuss the reordering of the movie that happened in post production, as well as the different usage of some footage. The great shot of Gyllenhall smashing a mirror turns out to have been an on-location improvisation that got dialed into a relevant beat of the movie, thus amping up a series of scenes that did not have that urgency before.

    If It Bleeds, It Leads: Making Nightcrawler – (5:15, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This short featurette covers most of the basics of a standard EPK piece on the movie, but it also includes some interview material with a pair of real-life “stringers” who spend their nights monitoring the same kind of police radio traffic heard in the movie. They insist that they don’t go as far as Lou Bloom, but one really has to wonder…

    DVD – The Blu-ray packaging includes the DVD edition, which holds the movie in standard definition with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in English (@448 kbps). The DVD includes both of the special features from the Blu-ray, albeit in standard definition. The DVD also includes a “Previews” menu, holding trailers for Open Road movies including End of Watch, The Grey, Homefront, Killer Elite, Side Effects and Sabotage.

    Digital/Ultraviolet Copy – The packaging has an insert that contains instructions for downloading a digital or ultraviolet copy of the movie.

    Subtitles are available in English, Spanish and French for the film itself, as well as for the special features. A standard chapter menu is included for quick reference.

     

     

     

     

    Overall Rating: 3.5/5

    Nightcrawler is a powerful movie, and it gets a first class presentation on Blu-ray. It’s loaded with great performances, particularly Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead role, and it has a strong statement to make about the current state of video journalism and television news. The Blu-ray features solid high definition picture and sound, as well as a great commentary from the Brothers Gilroy that covers pretty much every detail anyone would want to know about the production. On the strength of the movie and the commentary, Nightcrawler is Highly Recommended for purchase or rental. That said, viewers are cautioned that this is touchy material – it may not be something you want to watch twice, no matter how high its quality.

    Reviewed By: Kevin EK

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  2. Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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    Thanks for the review, Kevin. I watched this last night and thought it was great. One thing I would add is like King of Comedy this film is loaded with darkly...sort of pitch black...comic moments. Lou is certainly a more dangerous character than Rupert and proves it in the film. I think Nightcrawler works as a twisting turning unpredictable thriller, as a satire of our media obsessed society, a character study of a very unusual man, and as black comedy. I have to agree this seemed to be a tight, witty, and well thought out bit of writing. I will certainly be watching it again and I think much of the nuance may become more evident on repeat viewings.


    I have to say that Gyllenhaal is really stacking up a great body of work and is an actor that seems to totally immerse himself in his roles and he really changes from character to character adding interesting quirks that set them apart. From Donnie Darko to Jarhead to Zodiac to Source Code to Prisoners to Enemy to Nightcrawler he has been a consistently interesting actor to watch.
     
  3. bujaki

    bujaki Producer

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    Please add Brokeback Mountain to the list of his great performances.

    He should have been nominated for Nightcrawler. It made me feel like taking a shower after viewing the film, a feeling I also had after watching Sweet Smell of Success. There certainly is a connection between Sidney and Lou.
     
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  4. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    I completely agree that there is a lot of dark, dark comedy in this movie. Lou's explosion at Nina is a classic example of this. His overt threat at his assistant in the car is frankly so scary it's actually funny. But probably the best line is one that the Brothers Gilroy can't resist giggling at in their commentary. While Lou and Rick are blasting down the road trying to get to the next crime scene, Rick belts out the plaintive question: "Why aren't we at the rape in Griffith Park like everyone else?" A bit of a Charlie Brown line, but given a pretty twisted spin.


    I also totally agree there's a strong urge to take a shower after watching this movie!
     
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  5. ROclockCK

    ROclockCK Screenwriter

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    Mr. Gyllenhaal sure seems to be chasing some very challenging yet rewarding projects these days. Following on the heels of his cool, clear-eyed work in Source Code plus the recent Villeneuve films, yet again he's right out there on the edge with one of the best performances - if not the best - by any actor I saw last year.


    Too early to toss out a word like "classic", but I think Nightcrawler is definitely a keeper...one for the zeitgeist+++! It will probably just take a while for audiences to discover its peculiar brilliance, but in my world it already sits right next to Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars atop my own 2014 best list. So yeah, no reservations here; I can't praise this film enough, including its production, and especially its cinematography and sound/score, both of which I'd rate a tad higher than Kevin. Beats me how it could have looked/sounded any better...in fact, I didn't even realize it was an analogue/digital hybrid until Kevin's review...as you note, "seamless" thoughout.
     
  6. bujaki

    bujaki Producer

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    A film for the Zeitgeist is quite correct. Nightcrawler is what Network was for its time, and Sweet Smell of Success for the fifties. You do see a connection among the 3 stories. They are satires that unfortunately become reality.

    Gyllenhaal should have been nominated (Carrell's is a joke), and his performance is unforgettable.

    You're right, Steve, this is one of the best films of 2014 (not nominated, of course), and is a keeper.
     
  7. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    Don't get me started on Foxcatcher. That's two hours I can't get back.
     
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