Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Directed by: Dan Gilroy
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, Riz Ahmed
The idea that the news media tend to sensationalize coverage of current events is not a new revelation. Watch any news network (especially American news) of recent world events and you’ll not doubt be greeted by a slew of attention grabbing, pseudo-apocalyptic headlines, complete with over the top repertoire from the news anchors and so-called “experts”, all in the pursuit of fashioning high tension Hollywood drama from real life.
Enter Nightcrawler, the debut feature from screenwriter-turned-director Dan Gilroy, which is a nail-biting, thrill ride of a movie, complete with razor-sharp satire and a tour de force performance from Jake Gyllenhaal.
Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a gaunt, wide-eyed sociopathic career opportunist, who will stop at nothing to be a success at what he does. A so-called freelance “nightcrawler” who, armed with a police scanner and video camera, drives around the streetlight-soaked streets of Los Angeles, seeking out human tragedy and scenes of carnage to film and sell to local TV news.
Bloom is a chilling creation. With his trusty camera and bewildered assistant Rick in tow, Bloom is a pure sociopath through and through, completely devoid of any kind of human empathy for the poor souls whose bloody and broken bodies he captures on camera. For Bloom, every gruesome accident, every violent shooting, every bloody corpse is a commodity for sale. His wide-eyed, calmly patient and collected demeanour adds to the chilling creepiness of his human detachment. As Bloom himself states, the day you meet him, is probably the worst day of your life.
Gyllenhaal is fantastic as Bloom. Aided by blistering dialogue and magnificent script, Gyllenhaal commands the screen at every turn. With awards season right around the corner, there is no doubt in my mind that Gyllenhaal will be an ever present figure at awards shows this season. A twenty first century descendent of Travis Bickle, Bloom is a product of our culture, and a terrifying one at that.
Despite his bullying and posturing, Gilroy is quick to point out that Bloom is but the mere product of a society that revels in his sense of sensationalism. A rival freelance “nightcrawler” played by Bill Paxton is also semi-detached from humanity, revelling in the joy of mass carnage and destruction, while Rene Russo’s network news director, a slave to ratings and sweepstakes, manipulates and screens Bloom’s graphic footage to the morning masses with ever increasing vigour and awe.
Long time screenwriter and first time director Gilroy does a marvellous job of capturing Bloom’s world as he and Rick chase the carnage through the streets of Los Angeles. A climactic car chase through the streets is possibly one of the most thrilling scenes you’ll see all year.
But in the end, this is Jake Gyllenhaal’s show. He goes all in as Bloom, and along with a masterful script and assured direction, delivers one of the most chilling on-screen monsters that you’ll see all year.