Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is having a very strange and visually odd cocktail party at her art gallery in Los Angeles. This is probably one of the most bizarre movie openings I’ve seen in quite some time! She lives in a gorgeous home out in the hills with her partner Hutton (Armie Hammer) but things are not all that sweet at home since they are having financial issues and Hutton is obviously seeing other women. Even though Susan is aware she plays it off as if she has no idea. One day Susan receives a manuscript from her ex Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal) and is asked to read it. Even though they have not talked in nineteen years Susan begins to read the book which by the way is dedicated just to her. From this point on this story is truly a film within a film.
A family of three Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal), his wife Laura (Isla Fisher) and their daughter India (Ellie Bamber) are taking a getaway and are traveling on a dark and deserted highway in the Mercedes when suddenly they come across two cars blocking their way. Tony lays on the horn and then the one car moves over but before you know it the three men, Lou (Karl Glusman), Turk (Robert Aramayo) and Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) in the car begin to torment the family and smash into them causing them to pull over. In the middle of nowhere it does not take long for the fear of what could happen sets in and it does happen. In the midst of reading this story Susan has terrible flashes of what this innocent family is going through and is horrified by the gruesome murders that take place.
At work one day Susan stands in the hallway with a co-worker and on the wall is a huge piece of work title revenge which has meaning to Susan and this story within a story. I found myself appalled by the murders of this family and the mannerisms of the three Texas men that murdered them and if not for Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon) taking matters in his own hands outside his authority as a police officer it makes one wonder if justice would have ever prevailed.
Susan was Edwards’s first crush when they first met as Edward was her brother’s first crush. When they eventually married her family thought he was beneath her especially since Edward was more of a romantic than a provider. Her parents thought Edward as a writer would never accomplish anything in life. Edward often referred to Susan as a ‘Nocturnal Animal’ since she never slept but he knew their life together was over when she made a serious decision on her own as well as decided to see Hutton of whom she later married after Edward. Some people think love means you work it out. As for Edward and Susan they never did and Tony lived with the regret that he should have done something on that highway in Texas the night his family was killed.
The film is smartly directed and written and will throw you off course several times but pay close attention and in the end you will figure out exactly what is going on. Like I said earlier is starts off extremely strange but explains itself thereafter. The visual beauty of the film is stunning yet the dramatic and horrific highway scene is very disturbing. The score is spot on and the cast is perfect. Adams and Gyllenhaal are both superb and could easily be nominated especially him during Oscar season. Fisher and Bamber although their roles are not long lasting in time they are very much so engraved in your memory of how easy good times can go bad in a matter of seconds. As for the three criminals you don’t get a lot of Glusman and Aramayo but Taylor-Johnson is outright crazy and you do get to see quite a bit of him. This film is a psychological thriller in the shadows of Hitchcock that plays out slow but very intriguing, leaving you longing for the truth in the end.