Jake Gyllenhaal has spent his entire career playing the creepy guy. Some would say he's now typecast, but somehow he manages to keep his performances fresh and exciting. With Nightcrawler, he puts in a tour-de-force performance, which is arguably his best.
He buys a cheap video camera and a cheap scanner and he starts to try to do it himself, and sure enough, once he starts to do it, he seems to have a knack for it. He establishes a business relationship with the graveyard shift news director for a local station, selling her footage for the morning news. Nina (Rene Russo) is cynical to begin with, only interested in blood and guts, and once Bloom's got the scent, he seems to have an unnerving ability to get right up in the gore. There's a good chunk of the film that's simply about how Bloom begins to learn to navigate this nighttime world of murder and car accidents and stabbings and fires. He hires a homeless guy named Rick (played by Riz Ahmed, who was so great in Four Lions) to be his ride-along "intern" to listen to the scanner and man the GPS as Bloom drives. Little by little, the two of them start to get really good.
There is a particular sort of sodium yellow that the film is drenched in, and it made me feel like I was standing on Hollywood Boulevard at 2:30 in the morning. I could almost smell the city. Elswit practically gives a performance in the film, his work is so essential to why it works.
The film plays with tension beautifully, and there are a few set pieces that I think are all-timers. One involves a home in the hills, and the other involves a Chinese restaurant, and both of them are exceptional in the way they manage to wrap theme and character and suspense together. There's not an ounce of fat on the film. It gets in, it tells the story as well as it possibly can, and it cuts out perfectly. This is ultimately a story about the strange dance that evolves between Nina and Bloom, and it's the best role Russo's had in years. Dan Gilroy's brother, Tony Gilroy, made his directorial debut with Michael Clayton, and in both cases, these guys are making smart, grown-up movies that have these haunting qualities that make them special. I think Nightcrawler is something special, uncompromising, and I'm excited to see how other people feel when they slip into the violent, seedy, scary world it creates.
What is captivating about Nightcrawler is that it does not judge its characters. The film tells a story that delves into the seedy and unnerving realms of the human psyche and it us up to the audience to ponder and reflect on what unfolds before them. Gilroy skilfully balances the dark comedy, thriller and satirical elements in the film, giving us a thematically-rich and suspenseful dive into the abyss that will surely stay with you long after the credits have rolled.
Jake Gyllenhaal gives a mesmerizing and disturbing career-best performance as one of the most memorable characters of the year. He is physically and mentally committed to embodying an eccentric and fascinating human unlike anything we've seen before. From his distinct mannerisms to his impeccable monologue deliveries, Gyllenhaal makes sure the audience can't look away no matter how uncomfortable the situations become (a particular scene involving a broken mirror will surely be an image that will be seared into your memory). What's even more unsettling is that we see bits and pieces of ourselves in Lou. From the first frame, the film is given an eerie and ominous atmosphere, thanks to cinematographer Robert Elswit (Paul Thomas Anderson's frequent collaborator) and James Newton Howard's minimalistic, but effective score.
Part satirical view of media sensationalism, part success story, Nightcrawler is one of those rare films that is not only superbly entertaining, but sophisticated and thought-provoking in equal measure.
Ultimately, Dan Gilroy has created a terrifically dark and humourous attack on today's media industry. Fincher's Gone Girl may have attacked the media, but Nightcrawler tears it limb from limb as viciously as Lou Bloom breaking into a house to shoot the remnants of a burglary.