Nightcrawler: Movie Review
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton
Director: Dan Gilroy
It's to the underbelly of Los Angeles we go in this terrific thriller set against a backdrop of nights and shady activity.
Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Lou Bloom, a man desperate for work and hungry for a pay off. When we first meet him, he's stealing copper wire (and in an ensuing struggle with a security guard, his watch) and trying to sell it on, while simultaneously trying to ingratiate himself into a position for a job.
After being rejected, he sees a camera crew taking footage of a dramatic rescue on a highway. Learning how much they get for this and that TV's saturated news networks will pay for anything that works under the old journalism mantra of "If it bleeds, it leads", Lou decides to join the freelance camera crew game.
Hiring a homeless person Rick (played by Four Lions star Riz Ahmed), and decking out his car with police scanning equipment, Lou finds an ally and buyer in the form of news director Nina (Russo) whose station is in ratings slump....
Nightcrawler is a compulsively thrilling film, one which trawls through the moral sludge and delights with ethical and moral issues just being part of the attraction.
The main attraction though - aside from the terrific cinematography and slick sheen of the mainly night-time production - is Gyllenhaal as the misfit Bloom, a sociopathic driven parasite of an anti-hero whose outlook is as complex as it is compelling. With a slimmed down frame and piercing eyes, his delusion is as contagious as it is frightening - in his skewed take of the world (with hints of Asperger's implied) everything makes a perfect logical sense with the kind of self-delusional belief that we've seen in the likes of Travis Bickle and William Foster in Falling Down. He's a twisted businessman perfect for a 21st Century where narcissism and selfies are the norm, and selfishness is sadly the raison d'etre. But more than just that, Gyllenhaal commands the screen from beginning to ebullient end, with nary a breath drawn in between as he pursues and bastardises his own American dream.
His interactions with Four Lions star Riz Ahmed are also electrifying too; from initial interview scenes to negotiations later on, there's a frisson of uncertainty about where it's all going that adds an edge to an already superior and tense thriller.
Equally, the up-for-the-highest-bidder values of late night US news-stations chasing ratings are under the microscope too; with Russo's news chief becoming compromised and entangled both in Bloom's web and the desire to be number one in a way that seems all too sentient of how TV ratings are warping people's sense of propriety. (Though, there are moments within that stretch credibility of a newsroom's operation).
Meshing satire and life through LA's dark gauze is a potent brew, Nightcrawler is a can't-take-your-eyes-off-it thriller that maybe could have lived larger if there had been some tighter editing ( it could be argued that the current denouement feels like a tacked-on epilogue that saps the prior scenes' potency and shock factor) but is already a superior slice of cinema, thanks to Gyllenhaal. He may be behind the camera throughout as the footage-chasing and obseqious Bloom, but throughout, he's very definitely front and centre of the screen - and in your mind long after Nightcrawler has ended.