Nightcrawler, by first time director Dan Gilroy, is a completely engrossing crime thriller that explores the dark, voyeuristic and sensationalist nature of Western news.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, an introverted (and rather sociopathic) thief who gets a taste of crime journalism after he witnesses a car crash. After successfully shooting his own gruesome crime-scene videos and selling them to a local news studio, Lou becomes increasingly obsessed with growing his “business” and getting the best shot possible… No matter the cost.
Nightcrawler is beautifully shot. It’s clean and crisp, but also shows all the typical urban grit that we come to expect from this kind of movie. There is a beautiful use of inner-city colours and lights, used in places to turn characters into stark and scary caricatures, and in other places to highlight the hidden beauty of modern life. Sound also plays a massive part in this film, and while the soundtrack was fairly hit-and-miss, ambient noises such as sirens, moving cars, televisions and the like bring the whole movie to life.
If the lighting and sound bought Nightcrawler to life, some of the acting probably put it back in the grave. There seems to be a trend in cinema and television at the moment to make character say very little and use their blank, brooding faces to fill in the blanks. While this was effective for a while, like in Drive, now it just feels like a drag. Nightcrawler does commit this sin, not to a totally excruciating extent, but enough to bore me. Too many characters just seemed soulless and wooden. I suppose this is the point of the film, but the only character that REALLY needed to be so bland (and almost un-human) was Gyllenhaal’s.
Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of the off-kilter Lou Bloom is interesting and evocative, but not very consistent. His first few lines made me cringe, but once I got used to the character and his eccentricities, I found it much less grating. In fact, I found Lou to be a very unique, fascinating character, even a scary one at times. Gyllenhaal’s ability to portray a character that is pretty much the human embodiment of a LinkedIn page (with a fair bit of brutality thrown in) is commendable.
Nightcrawler paints a horrifyingly real picture of a tabloid newsroom, or in fact, any fast-paced professional setting. Like American Psycho it does a great job at highlighting the almost psychopathic practices that some use to get ahead. It is a tense, well-paced and well-written film that only suffers from a bit of odd acting (and also some very blatant product placement). It throws in a radical car chase as well, which is always fun!
Reviewed by James Rudd
Rating out of 10: 7