It’s about bloody time someone in Hollywood came up with a truly unique and intriguing concept that doesn’t involve a superhero, a teenage romance, or strict adherence to genre conventions. Can I get an amen?
Crime thriller Nightcrawler is the directorial debut of Hollywood screenwriter Dan Gilroy (Real Steel, Bourne Legacy), and if his first film is any indication of what he will produce in future, then I am very excited to see what he decides to do next.
Jake Gyllenhaal stars as the emotionally crippled, and slightly unhinged Louis Bloom; an LA petty thief determined to find proper work that will inspire him, and set him up for life. He finds his calling in video journalism, covering local, violent crime, and he becomes obsessed with taking any measures necessary to be the best in the business.
Forget the perfect “Ken doll” Jake Gyllenhaal with the bright, blue eyes, the stylishly swept back dark hair, and the charming, sparkling white smile you may have seen in previous films. In Nightcrawler, the hair, makeup and wardrobe departments have made Gyllenhaal up to look like a super creepy weirdo, and he certainly brings the personality to match. Apparently Gyllenhaal also lost nearly 15 kilos for the part, which seems to be becoming an unhealthy trend among male actors (Matthew McConaughey lost nearly 20 kilos for Dallas Buyers Club, and Christian Bale apparently shed nearly 30 kilos for The Machinist in 2004). Not since the days of Donnie Darko (2001) have I ever had so much admiration for Gyllenhaal’s acting abilities. He is so convincing as Louis Bloom, it’s uncanny; it’s as if he was born to play this role. Through the character’s awkwardness, and lack of understanding of social expectations, he brings a bizarre blend of comedy to the film, and you get the sense that he is genuinely enjoying portraying this character.
The writing in this film is absolutely sensational; from the creation of this intriguing antihero that you love in spite of his most unsettling quirks, to the exploration of video journalism, which is presented in a way that audiences have never really seen before. The film shows the cutthroat competitiveness between the video journalists and the news networks alike, the battle of ethics when deciding what can and can’t be aired on television, and the conflict between the cameramen and the police/emergency response teams.
It’s such a refreshing storyline, particularly the relationship that develops between Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo, who plays news network producer Nina Romina. On one level they are employer and employee, and in this instance Nina has all the power, until Bloom realises he has the upper hand when he starts to deliver such a high quality product. It becomes a struggle for dominance, which is steeped in sexual tension, and is further complicated when they both come to learn that one cannot survive without the other.
The only issue I have with this film is the third act, which is unnecessarily drawn out, and lacking in content. It kind of comes across as though Gilroy built up this incredible conflict to a point where he could not figure out how to resolve or conclude the story, so the film ends on a bit of a low.
Overall, this is an oddly comical, disturbing, but exhilarating film with a killer performance from Gyllenhaal, and an awesome score that is similar to, but nowhere near as overbearing as the sound design used in Punch Drunk Love (2002). This is the most unique and unpredictable film I have seen in a very long time, which is why I am giving Nightcrawler 4 stars.