Nightcrawler, 2014, USA
Director: Dan Gilroy
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo & Riz Ahmed
"What if my problem wasn't that I don't understand people but that I don't like them? What if I was the kind of person who was obliged to hurt you for this? I mean physically."
'Nightcrawler' is the second high profile film in as many months to provide a scathing commentary on the media. While David Fincher's 'Gone Girl' was more about the media circuses that follow events, Dan Gilroy's 'Nightcrawler' shows the vicious underbelly and who is responsible for acquiring the crime footage we see on the news.
From the very first scene, it's clear that first time Director Dan Gilroy is on point with what he is trying to convey. The scene in question introduces us to the film's titular character, Lou Bloom, in a perfectly precise and efficient way. Within about a minute, Bloom is shown to be a thief, lawbreaker, well spoken, aggressive and, finally, dangerous. Throw in the fact that character is being played pitch perfectly by Jake Gyllenhaal, and we have a wonderful introduction to one of the year's most compelling characters.
From its first scene to its last, 'Nightcrawler' is filled with a unnerving and immersive energy that transcends through the screen and takes a hold of the viewer. It's thrilling in every sense of the word, but throughout I had to ask why I felt like I had such an investment in Bloom and his escapades. After all, this character is a manipulative, vindictive, sociopath, why do I as the viewer get such a thrill out of seeing him succeed with his horrifying and morally incorrect actions? and then it dawned on me, like so many other characters in this film, I was under Lou Bloom's spell. This character is so well written and performed that the effect he has on the fictitious characters in the film, transcends to the viewers who are watching the film. Like the characters, we are aware that Bloom is a twisted individual, hell, we see it first hand time and time again throughout the film, but Gilroy and Gyllenhaal have created a character so rich in subtext, that he manages to almost seem like more of character. In a way similar to Patrick Bateman from 'American Psycho', They make us get invested into a despicable yet charismatically endearing character and let him take us along for the ride, just like he does the character of Rick in the film. It's both terrifying and brilliant.
This film seriously questions the morality of the media, in a relentless and enlightening way. What is about seeing victims of crime or savage injury that compels us and makes us want to sit and stare? Who is sicker, the ones who acquire the footage or the ones who watch it? and how far is too far? 'Nightcrawler' poses so many complex questions when it comes to this topic and they aren't questions you'll simply stop thinking about once the credits roll, they will linger in the back of your mind every time you turn on the local news.
I've always been a huge advocate of Jake Gyllenhaal, I think of him as one of the absolute best actors working today. His performance in this film not only continues to solidify that, but it may just be his best achievement as an actor, which is saying a lot if you've seen any of his performances in the last several years. As I alluded to above, Lou Bloom is to Jake Gyllenhaal, what Patrick Bateman was to Christian Bale. A character and performance that effortlessly blends charisma and charm with aggression and savageness. Gyllenhaal completely disappears into this character, in appearance, mannerisms and everything else, Gyllenhaal IS Lou Bloom. From his sly grin to his piercing eyes and gaunt figure, this performance is just phenomenal in all regards. The best performance I've seen from an actor all year. The supporting cast is really good too, particularly Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed and Bill Paxton. What makes the supporting cast so good is they do exactly that, support! They are all examples of Bloom's wrath and charm.
When I started writing this review my rating for the film was going to be 4.5 out of 5, but after going over it in my head, I just have to give this the full 5 stars. 'Nightcrawler' is a truly riveting and thrilling character study of one of the most rich and complex characters in many years. An endlessly wonderful film that is easily one of my favorites of 2014.