Nocturnal Animals

Directed By: Tom Ford

Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Andrea Riseborough, and Michael Sheen

If you've been reading my posts this awards season, you've probably noticed that I haven't given too many sober ratings as of late.  With the Oscars on the way, you would think there would be something fantastic that would come my way.  So far, this has not been the case.  That's about to change for the better, however.  On this week of Thanksgiving, I've finally gotten a movie for which I should truly be thankful in Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals.  With the same kind of ferocity that defined movies like Prisoners and Sicario and some of the eccentric visuals that defined films such as The Great Beauty and Youth, Nocturnal Animals is the one to watch this season, especially as awards come rolling in.  Ford knocks it out of the park with this one.  In fact, Nocturnal Animals may just be the best movie of 2016.

Not living the life she imagined with her cheating second husband Hutton (Armie Hammer), wealthy art gallery owner Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is intrigued when she hears from her ex-husband Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal).  Having not spoken to him in over 19 years since she was in grad school, Susan openly embraces his invite to have dinner together when he stops by Los Angeles in the coming days.  She also receives a manuscript for his upcoming novel.  It just so happens that the book is dedicated to her.  Cracking it open, she gets acquainted with the Hastings family and the horror that befalls them.  After his wife Laura (Isla Fisher) and his daughter India (Ellie Bamber) are brutalized Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and several others, Tony Hastings (Gyllenhaal) turns to Detective Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon) for some semblance of justice.  As Susan continues to delve into this dark, twisted tale about the fictional Hastings from her ex, strange things begin to happen in her own life.

Nocturnal Animals
is a beast of a movie.  With just his second feature film now under his belt buckle, sophomore director Tom Ford has made it clear that he is a heavy hitter who intends to play ball this awards season.  As a man who deeply enjoyed Nocturnal Animals, all I can say is that he brings style and substance to the forefront in a gripping, engrossing manner.  Stylistically, he brings us pulse-pounding suspense that heightens the stakes of the bloody, horrific story-within-a-story unfolding as well as the empty, unexamined life of our main character perusing said story.  Substantively, there's something allegorical about a man who lost his wife to divorce dedicating a novel to her about a character not too dissimilar to himself who loses his family in a much more tragic, brutal way.  Employing numerous cinematic devices throughout the film to accomplish feats on both fronts, Ford makes Nocturnal Animals the thriller to see this holiday season. 

It's always great to watch a director at work who's keenly aware of the tools at his disposal to bring his story to life.  In the case of Nocturnal Animals, Tom Ford is most definitely that director.  You can see the looming tragedy in the dark, gritty cinematography that sets the scene for bloodshed.  You can hear the suspense in the sound mixing as Ford utilizes heartbeats and other noises to accentuate the tension brewing.  You can feel the mystery and wonder that fuels the narrative in the melodic compositions scored by Abel Korzeniowski.  Yes, Ford uses many filmmaking techniques to amplify the dark tale he's telling here, and they all pay big dividends throughout the movie.

Amy Adams is having yet another strong year.  After nearly a decade of being nominated for Oscars every other year, it may just be her time.  In addition to her impressive work in Denis Villeneuve's Arrival, she now has yet another laudable role here in Nocturnal Animals with her portrayal of Susan Morrow.  Similar to her other performance, there's an emptiness to this character.  Her life is devoid of substance despite great success in her career as an art gallery owner.  Adams manages to make the agonizing emptiness quite compelling to watch on the big screen.  Her co-star Jake Gyllenhaal is playing double duty in both the primary narrative as Susan's ex-husband Edward Sheffield and the novel's main lead Tony Hastings.  In both cases, he's a sensitive soul who's been robbed of the thing he cherishes most in this world, family. In the case of his turn as Hastings, Gyllenhaal shows how he gradually descends into an abyss until he snaps after tragedy befalls him.  It's a fascinating pair of performances.  Finally, we have strong supporting performances from Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as a scrappy cop and a dangerous white man respectively.

Violent, vicious, and vivid, Nocturnal Animals is the movie you must see this awards season.  Tom Ford's second outing in the director's chair gets a sober rating.  Don't miss this one!