“The closer you look, the darker it gets” declares the poster for Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut Nightcrawler. And so it was. As I sat in the cinema wondering how far Jake Gyllenhaal’s character would take it, the answer tended to be “Oh, that far.”
The film is a bildungsroman tale of Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal), a young man driven by money and success, and willing to go to any lengths to achieve it. He gets hooked on the idea of freelance crime journalism, specifically filming violent crimes and accidents with a personal camcorder, with the plan to sell them on to local news station KWLA manager Nina (Rene Russo). However, as his business grows and the stakes are raised, he goes to great lengths to ensure he rises to the top of the pile and stays there, no matter what the consequences are.
Gyllenhaal is a wonder to watch in a film like this. He has chosen his films wisely over the years and has a body of work he can already be very proud of, including Donnie Darko, Jarhead, Brokeback Mountain, Zodiac and Source Code. This is definitely amongst his best overall, and I’d go as far as say that Lou is his most defined character yet. He plays sinister very well and clearly knows how to make his audiences tick. At times it’s a real joy to watch, at times it made me want to cover my eyes; both responses indicative that I was hooked.
The plot works as a game of oneupmanship unto itself, and this operates across the board. The characters become fuller and more dislikable as the time progresses, the gore gets gorier, the action gets more explosive and by the final act the whole movie had me whipped up into a frenzy of disbelief. Well played Gilroy.
The supporting cast includes a top-form Bill Paxton (whoopee-fuckin’-do) as a rival video journalist, and a further emerging Riz Ahmed, who Brits may remember from the excellent Four Lions. Ahmed is one of my favourite British actors and it was a nice surprise to see him with such a big role in an American blockbuster.
As the finale approached, I found myself getting increasingly engrossed by Lou’s actions. His morals become so loose by the end that there is nothing remaining. His actions are fuelled by a desire to earn money, which is only possible because the viewers of KWLA are hungry to see the gruesome truth of their city. It’s an intelligent method of storytelling that we are enticed in the same manner into Lou’s own story, and by the end I found myself questioning my own morals, sitting on the edge of my seat, watching in excited disbelief.
This is an excellent film and it’s well worth seeking out whilst it’s still in cinemas. Check it out!
Nightcrawler is in cinemas worldwide now.