The Psychotic Darkness of Nightcrawling

Since the commercial disappointment of 2010’s “Prince of Persia: Sands of Time,” Jake Gyllenhaal made the smart decision of scaling back to acting in low to middle-budget features. Most recently, Gyllenhaal’s acclaimed performances in “Prisoners” and “Enemy” produced a significant spike in his acting range.

However, his newest role in writer/first-time director Dan Gilroy’s “Nightcrawler” is one that blows all his previous ones right out of the water and is more than enough to warrant a Best Actor Oscar nomination.

Gyllenhaal plays Louis Bloom, an unemployed Los Angeleno that has resorted to petty theft to supply his dwindling cash supply. One night he comes across a car crash that meets the arrival of stringers, freelance videographers that film crime scenes and sell the footage to news stations for money. Desperate for cash, he decides to take upon the profession and soon becomes quite good at it, but his growing obsession also goes as far as manipulating crime scenes for better footage.

Courtesy of Open Road Films

Courtesy of Open Road Films

Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of this complex character is one of sublimely brute force. His magnetic performance is similar to that of a guy that’s a quick learner and is willing to try his hardest, but also uses that knowledge as leverage to get his way by any means possible.

Louis Bloom is essentially a borderline autistic psychopath, who could go as far as being comparable to Travis Bickle with a video camera. He commits acts that become more immoral as the film goes on, but his personality is so fascinating, you’re torn whether or not to hate him.

Aside from Gyllenhaal celebrating his finest hour, the film’s supporting cast also holds up quite well alongside him. Rene Russo in particular is quite excellent as the news station director that Bloom sells footage to, and her cunning manipulation of the shock factor in news is expertly shown multiple times. Bill Paxton is also surprisingly good as a rival stringer that competitively clashes with Bloom for first dibs on filming high-profile crime scenes.

Writing-wise, Dan Gilroy’s script is skillfully constructed in terms of delivering pungent dialogue, but also creating increasingly tense situations that test the fate of Bloom getting too close to the dangers of crimes in progress.

For a directorial debut, Gilroy knocks it out of the park. The opening montage alone shows his profound love of the City of Angels, and the cinematography by Robert Elswit beautifully captures the bright lights landscape of the city’s late night hours.

However, Gilroy’s direction is at its finest for the scathing satire he constructs on the conflicted ethos in broadcast news journalism. The news station that’s run by Rene Russo’s Nina Romina is one that thrives off injecting fear into the viewers with crime infecting the suburbs and ultimately uses Bloom’s graphic footage to reinforce the issue. This measure is one that feels all too real for someone that watches even just the first five minutes of a Los Angeles news show, which open with stories for shock all the time.

“Nightcrawler” is dangerous, mentally unhinged and full of journalistic smarts, which ultimately culminates to one of the best films released this year. Jake Gyllenhaal’s electrifying performance is enough to encourage a viewing, but its timely social commentaries on broadcast news direction and the desperation to succeed in a post-recession world are equally rewarding in the experience.

 

RECOMMENDED: Amazing acting and very well-realized themes make “Nightcrawler” one of the best movies to have released in 2014.