Director: Dan Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton
Plot: Louis Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is a lost soul, who finds a purpose when he discovers the job title of Nightcrawlers, cameramen that freelance for news stations, filming breaking stories.
Jake Gyllenhaal is a revelation. While I am not convinced he will take home the OSCAR, I am pretty sure that he will find a strong nomination being thrown his way. Louis Bloom is the centrepiece of this story and he is a very tricky character to get right. On one hand, he is a very amusing character. Most of his lines are spent quoting things he has read from online business courses and he is so direct that it is hard not to laugh at his way of conveying ideas. However, it is crucially important to this film’s success that he never becomes a comedy figure. Yes, Nightcrawler is a very funny film, but the humour is a very dark wit, almost coming across as the one thing that will keep you from drowning in the misery and depression of this very sinister movie. From the very first scene, we are never sure what to make of the character. We learn that he is a thief, who is striving to find a legal job, but struggling in the economic market. The fun is wondering exactly how far he is willing to go to achieve his dreams and ‘goals’, as the audience is sent on this spiralling decline into insanity, pretty much as we have with Travis Bickle in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. That is a massive movie to be associated with, yet reviews keep using it, because Nightcrawler is worthy of the connection. That makes Jake Gyllenhaal this movie’s Robert De Niro and again, I must stress how well the actor does here. You hang on his every word and facial tick, wondering exactly how he is going to say the next line. Which facial expression or body movement is he going to wow us with next? It is a confined performance yet never any less staggering than any other OSCAR nomination.
The thing I took away from Nightcrawler was Dan Gilroy using his story not to satirise the media (although there is a fair bit of mockery thrown their way), but to point fingers at the futility of the job market. For me, this is a movie about employment, or lack thereof. In many ways, Louis Bloom does the things he does, because he is given no other option. He starts the movie selling things he steals to companies, but when he decides he wants to move on, his reputation doesn’t allow him to pick up any legal work, creating this downward spiral. As Bloom turns to self-employment, the only way he can stay ahead of his rivals is through cutting corners and breaking rules… sometimes even laws. Bloom never seems bothered with his criminal activities, yet the movie hardly ever, arguably never, punishes him for anything illegal he does. It suggests that the power he accumulates is only given to him, because he embraces the darker side of his job title. As much as I don’t want to take away from the nastiness of the character (you like him, but you never doubt his lack of redeeming features), I found that the job market was the real villain of the film. It was also a nice touch that when Bloom gets his own employees (Ahmed, who I hope gets a nod for Supporting Actor, despite a potentially understated performance), he turns around and bullies them, creating this vicious circle. Seeing as Bloom seems to act out his perceived vision of how bosses and businesses are meant to be behaving, it makes this reading much easier to back up.
Not that Nightcrawler needs you to hang on its social criticisms. It is far more interested in being a bloody good thriller. The trailers cleverly give little away. We know the set-up and that Louis Bloom is willing to go that extra mile, but otherwise we have no idea what direction the story is going to go down. We are happy to spend this time watching Bloom’s character develop (or we could argue the character never really develops, but rather the audience’s perception of the character develops). The movie hurtles right through to its climax, which is a terrific pay-off. We saw glimpses of the car chase in the trailers, but the entire scene is astonishing to behold, beautifully shot and written with several twists and shocks. The one problem with Nightcrawler is the aftermath of the climax. The chase is clearly the high point of the film, delivering explosive action and the movie’s biggest shock yet, but when it is over, it still feels like there is a lot more story to be told. The movie ends a little open, which perhaps works for the message Gilroy wants to convey, but it leaves the audience hanging slightly. Seeing as we never get an origin story to Bloom, we could say that Nightcrawler is a movie without a beginning or an end. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a fantastic movie and you need to see it before the OSCARs roll around, but it lacks the urgency to be a true show-stopper.
Final Verdict: Louis Bloom will be talked about for years, the new anti-hero of cinema, played fantastically by Jake Gyllenhaal, in his finest role yet.