Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed
Directed and written by Dan Gilroy
IMDB Rating: 8.0
On the outskirts of the recent awards season, Nightcrawler is a film about the news industry putting a price tag on catastrophes – and is more disturbing than you would have realised.
Think of our newscast as a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut.
Set in the dark nights of LA, Nightcrawler stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom, a determined but unemployed man who finds out about the world of freelance crime reporting after seeing a car crash leave a woman in critical condition. Starting from the bottom, he buys a camera and an old police radio and starts filming accidents and dangerous crimes. Unaware of any moral high ground, he takes reporting to a new level, getting closer to the sometimes gruesome scenes than anyone else. His footage gains the attention of Nina Romina, an under pressure news director for an LA TV station struggling with ratings, who sees Bloom’s disturbing footage as a way up the ratings ladder and a way to keep her job. He eventually hires help in the form of Rick, a nearly-homeless man who is desperate need of money. Lou Bloom pushes the limits of his work, getting closer than anyone ever should, beating the emergency services to the scenes and breaking the law to get the shots he and Nina need.
I must say, I don’t think I’ve seen a film as dark and twisted as this in a long time! Everything about it is wrong – how Bloom has zero regard for any of the people affected, how Nina throws away all morals and etiquette to show the gruesome footage, and most poignantly how the film gives off the vibe as if this is all okay (a credit to Dan Gilroy, not a criticism). It all feels very real, especially for someone looking into America from the outside such as myself, and that adds to the disturbing nature of the film. In Lou Bloom, Gilroy has created one of the weirder leads in a Hollywood movie I’ve seen. There isn’t too much loveable about him, and you constantly get the sense that he doesn’t fully know what he’s doing, and how wrong it all is. The way he talks like he is reciting from a business handbook just adds to the weirdness of him – almost like an evil Sheldon Cooper (yes, we have The Big Bang Theory in the UK)! Nina Romina wasn’t much better, starring in what I thought was the most disturbing (and by the same account, the best) scene in Nightcrawler – the live report showing Bloom’s new footage of the triple homicide, where she’s constantly telling the presenters to accentuate the fear and the danger to the nation. I found myself cringing every time she spoke into the mic asking for more fear, more drama.
It won’t surprise you to hear that Gyllenhaal’s BAFTA nominated performance is very good in this movie. One of my favourite actors from the last decade, it’s nice to see him still firing at his best. I was most impressed with how he used he presented himself, his walking and standing and general presentation to people was almost as if he was lost, uncomfortable, but he knew what he was doing. His lines and how he spoke them were also on point, constantly dropping little hints about how he feels in the changing tone and speed of his voice.
You can also add to the great performances and story in this film a very good directing debut by Dan Gilroy (who previously wrote The Bourne Legacy and Real Steel). It is a film primarily filmed at night, which gives you more scope for colour than you would think, and Gilroy makes good use of the artificial light available, but without going over the top which is the big thing. A lot of films shot at night in a city would have had neon lights everywhere and the characters faces would have been a multitude of colours throughout the piece, however in Nightcrawler Gilroy is very delicate with colour, making sure to use it without making the film lose any realism. Perhaps more importantly was how he shot the accidents, and he generally kept from showing the graphic bits unless it was through Lou Blooms lens, instead focusing on how he as a person acted in the situations, which I think was a good way to go as he could have stuck a camera at the dead bodies, but that would have taken away from the impact of Bloom’s footage. It’s small details, but it all counts for a very good movie.
This is, as you would have guessed, a very dark movie, which could be it’s downfall in terms of re-watchability. However as a one-off movie experience it is very interesting in many different aspects – the characters, the story, the visuals, all on point and played in sync to work perfectly.