UK Release Date: 31st October 2014
Runtime: 117 minutes
Director: Dan Gilroy
Writer: Dan Gilroy
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton
Synopsis: An ambitious man with a conspicuous lack of morals pursues a career in the murky underground art of shooting graphic crime and accident footage for television news.
The career of Jake Gyllenhaal is in an interesting place right now. Having done his share of leading man roles and pretty boy characters, he is now doing incredibly interesting projects such as End of Watch and Enemy. Nightcrawler – a sordid tale of illicit filming and television journalism – is the latest of those projects and an excellent journey into the dark heart of Gyllenhaal’s career.
Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is willing to break any law necessary to get a job. One night, he happens upon freelance cameraman Joe (Bill Paxton), who is capturing footage of a car wreck to sell to a TV station. Intrigued by this career, Lou recruits loser Rick (Riz Ahmed) and takes to the streets. Embracing his talent for filming the macabre, Lou begins to sell footage to newswoman Nina (Rene Russo) and pushes the boundaries in order to make the most money.
Nightcrawler is a black-hearted look at the macabre world of television news – an arena in which the mantra of “if it bleeds, it leads” is the only rule. The world it portrays is one where nice guys finish last and the only thing that matters is who comes out on top in the ratings. This is the gutter of trashy journalism, and the film shines a light on its true darkness.
| "What if I was the kind of person who was obliged to hurt you for this? I mean physically."
Jake Gyllenhaal’s intensely physical performance is the perfect way in which to convey the film’s message around gutter journalism and the flipside of the American Dream. His enormous eyes that were formerly a way to make women swoon are emptied of all life. Lou Bloom is a terrifying sociopath, full of enthusiasm but lacking in any sense of humanity or empathy.
On screen for almost every moment of the film, Gyllenhaal sits at the heart of everything Nightcrawler does. It’s his interactions with the terrific Rene Russo that illustrate the lengths to which journalists are willing to go for a story. Equally, his mistreatment of employee Riz Ahmed – a brilliantly jittery performance – is a metaphor for every kind of exploitative, low-paying employment in the world.
The film is also a stylistically rich work, reminiscent of Nicolas Winding Refn’s 80s-inspired Drive. We rarely see Gyllenhaal’s character in the light until the film’s conclusion; he feels most at home in the dark and director Dan Gilroy does a great job of conveying that aspect of his character with the gloriously bleak night-time backdrop.
| "Why you pursue something is as important as what you pursue."
However, where Nightcrawler falls down is in its final act. Just as it builds up to the inevitable climax of Gyllenhaal’s toxic ambition, the film rushes to a conclusion and the credits roll. Given the intriguing way that Nightcrawler builds its central story, it seems like a tragic waste that the finale is given so little room to breathe.
It’s rare that a modern film could do with an extra half an hour, but I could’ve happily knuckled down for lot more time in the company of Dan Gilroy’s world and his engrossing protagonist.
Pop or Poop?
Powered by a ferociously physical Jake Gyllenhaal performance, Nightcrawler is one of the most interesting Hollywood thrillers of the year.
It has plenty to say about journalism and the American Dream, wrapped up in a gripping narrative of intrusive reporting, mayhem and murder.
Dan Gilroy’s story takes a stumble as it rushes to cram itself into two hours, but that’s only a small quibble with a slick film that achieves a great deal without resorting to cheap flashes and bangs.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.