A look at Jake Gyllenhaal’s quirky acting career

For a while, Jake Gyllenhaal was an actor I didn’t think much of. I always just thought of him as just some other mainstream Hollywood actor who was in forgettable mainstream films.

It is now I realize that I never watched many of his movies, nor did I recognize him in starring roles. He’s a great actor, I can tell that he puts a lot of heart and dedication into his roles and that he’s very passionate about the films he’s starring in.

Here are three films Gyllenhaal has elevated with his acting prowess and dedication:

Donnie Darko (2001), written and directed by Richard Kelly

Donnie Darko is a film that should be a trainwreck based on the plot but ends up instead as a thought-provoking masterpiece.

Most hybrid films conjoin two genres that are very similar to one another, not Donnie Darko however, as it instead opts for highschool drama and hard sci-fi.

The plot follows Donnie Darko (played by Jake Gyllenhaal), a troubled but intelligent teen in high school who treats the people around him disrespectfully.

Packed full of philosophical questions, complex scientific concepts and abstract symbolism, you really need to be on high alert while watching this film.

Admittedly, it was only upon my second viewing that I understood several critical elements of the film.

It’s rare to find a movie with so much to unpack to the point that something new can be discovered every consecutive watch. Some of the special effects are a bit outdated, but are still effective and understandable.

A young Gyllenhaal plays his role very believably which is essential in helping the audience buy into the wild situation.

It’s not a film for everyone but watching it is certainly an experience like no other. If you are interested in art films, Donnie Darko is a must-watch.

Enemy (2014), written by José Saramago, directed by Denis Villeneuve

Enemy is a very interesting film by Denis Villeneuve, the same man who more recently directed Arrival.

The film begins by following the daily life of a boring professor named Adam Bell, played by Gyllenhaal.

One night as Bell is watching a film he spots an extra that looks identical to himself. Adam learns the actor’s name is Anthony St. Clair, also played by Gyllenhaal, and works to track him down.

Visually, this movie is very distinct. The entire film is given a tan filter and the entirety of the Toronto environment is made to look very drab.

This aligns with the monotony of Adam’s life while also making the stories more mysterious elements even more captivating.

Once again I must praise Gyllenhaal, as he plays both main characters very distinctly from one another.

Mélanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon also excel in their smaller but essential roles.

My one knock would be that some of the abstract themes were a little too hard to decipher and seemed at least somewhat out of place but this may become more clear upon additional viewings.

Either way, I love this film’s ambition and its presentation of abstruse imagery and narrative.

This film is a good starting point for someone trying to get into art cinema and it’s still very enjoyable if you’re the type already engrossed in such films.

Nightcrawler (2014), written and directed by Dan Gilroy

Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler deserves more attention. Featuring what I consider Gyllenhaal’s best performance, the film is full of surprises, social commentary, and black comedy.

Nightcrawler follows the character of Lou Bloom, played by Gyllenhaal. A thief and seemingly a sociopath, Lou does whatever is necessary to make a buck.

Lou discovers the occupation of freelance videographers who video record accidents or crimes and sell the footage to news stations. Lou pursues this line of work and acts riskier and riskier to increase his profit.

Gyllenhaal’s two main co-stars, Rene Russo and Riz Ahmed, are also very believable in their roles. Without those actors, I don’t think Gyllenhaal’s performance would be as good as it was.

It is difficult to base a movie around a character who lacks moral empathy and has very selfish motivations. However, the script ends up nailing the essence of the anti-hero, making the audience cheer for Lou and his nefarious methods.

Considering the majority of the film happens outside at night it is important to get the lighting right which Nightcrawler achieved gracefully.

My main gripe with the film is the musical score. It really doesn’t fit the suspenseful scenes at all.

Besides that, I think the movie is really great, it can decide to be funny, suspenseful, or scary at any moment successfully.

It’s a very approachable film. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of heart-pumping thrillers.

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