Director Tom Ford’s latest film is a neo-noir psychological thriller that stars Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
“Nocturnal Animals” tells the story of a prosperous art-gallery owner (Adams) whose relaxing life is tainted by the entrance of a script written by her first husband (Gyllenhaal). The book tells the plot of a man who finds a vacation with his family turning into a traumatic nightmare. As Susan reads the morbid novel, it causes her to inspect her own past and encounter some harsh realities.
From the opening 10 seconds, “Nocturnal Animals” mesmerizes you. Ford’s second film offers audiences a unique and glossy take on the thriller genre. Considering Ford’s involvement and recognition in the fashion industry, it comes as no surprise that the film looks incredibly slick and polished. Every scene is presented with a meticulous flair that captivates the viewer through the (at times) complex narrative.
And although the film’s story is intriguing, the real power of “Nocturnal Animals” is its all-star cast. Adams continues her stellar year and portrays a woman who is strong, independent, but also weak and overcome with guilt at times due to her past actions. The guilt she experiences ultimately paints Adams’ character as tragic, but the main star of the film is the reliable Gyllenhaal.
Gyllenhaal’s character expresses a wide range of emotions in the film – sadness, grief, anger, confusion. Gyllenhaal’s ability to pull the audience in and make you relate and feel for this man fully shows his strengths as an actor. The character of Edward/Tony showcases Gyllenhaal’s magnificent screen presence. And since the audience gets to understand Edward as a person and the character he portrays in the novel, it becomes his movie. The film may seem to center around Adams, but what it really centers around is the chaos that has befallen on the characters both in the novel and in the real world.
The film’s cast all bring their particular strengths to the film and the cinematography is no different. Certain sections of the film (particularly the desert scenes) appear as if they were painted with a brush. The scenes that Ford directs are simply beautiful to look at – softly light, sharp focus, bold colors.
But while the cast is fantastic and the film looks phenomenal, the pacing ultimately suffers. The beginning of the film pulls viewers into this slick (yet flawed) world, and the ending is poetic justice. But the middle of the film lags. There are moments of wonderful tension and character development, but the middle of the thriller has no sense of urgency. It’s a slow burn, and considering that the film’s marketing has made this seem like an adrenaline ride from start to finish, some may walk away disappointed.
Overall, “Nocturnal Animals” is a slick and stylish psychological thriller that features masterclass actors giving life to an intriguing story about past choices, chaos and regret. And while the pacing might be too slow for some viewers, it is not enough to derail the film.