‘Nightcrawler’ a Dark Sleeper in the Oscar Race

The best-actor category is overcrowded, but Jake Gyllenhaal is so good in “Nightcrawler” that he is a serious contender for one of Oscar’s five slots. While his performance has been one of the industry’s chief talking-points about the film, Open Road has another good awards possibility here: Dan Gilroy’s script, which is original and eye-opening.

The film’s domestic debut on Halloween and its title may lead some voters to think it’s a Freddy Kruger-style horror film. It IS scary, but not in that way. The film centers on local newscasts and their thirst for exclusive video of crime scenes. Gilroy forces the audience to acknowledge its own complicity in this, and he raises questions about the similar emphasis on sensationalism over substance in other professions. Gilroy, who also is making his directing debut, has a gift for taking something that’s in front of us every day, and making the audience see things in a new way.

Though the thoughtful film raises serious questions, it manages to be entertaining and grimly funny. Gilroy’s insights should resonate with voters, and could do well because the competition isn’t too intense in original screenplays.

As Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh pointed out in an Oct. 30 piece, Gyllenhaal is terrific in a tricky role. He plays an ambitious video-cam paparazzo and somehow manages to make the character both creepy and charismatic. It’s different from anything he’s done before, but he makes it seem like a perfect fit.

Other contributions are expert, including Robert Elswit’s cinematography, John Gilroy’s editing and Rene Russo’s supporting performance, but the awards emphasis for “Nightcrawler” will undoubtedly be on the lead actor and the script.

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