A man (Jake Gyllenhaal) carves a niche for himself capturing video footage of horrific accidents then selling it on to news stations. The lengths he goes to in order to do his job get more and more extreme.
This one has knocked me for six. Gyllenhaal pulls off the performance of a lifetime in this neo-noir thriller. He plays creepy sociopath Lou Bloom, with a shit eating grin and a head full of bland business mottoes off the internet. Somehow he drains the life out of his eyes, leaving but a husk of a person; it’s profoundly disturbing and like nothing I’ve ever seen before.
The real coup on Gyllenhaal’s part is making us sympathetic to Bloom in spite of all of this. His determination and inventiveness are admirable, and it’s entertaining to watch him at work. As Bloom films freshly killed corpses before even the police arrive, one can’t help but hope he gets the perfect shot, despite our disgust with his actions.
Gilroy’s screenplay cleverly shows us a glimpse of Lou’s life before his foray into TV news, and allows us to follow the business from its inception. This is key, because the way Bloom seeks work is methodical and has a total disregard for the law or for other people. The first few scenes provide a fantastic context for what is to come, rather than sloppily showing us a scene from the end then rewinding, as seems to be the trend these days.
The commentary on TV news coverage is obvious and asks many of the same questions Network does. However, Gilroy turns the idea on its head by having the protagonist be the immoral cameraman. This makes Nightcrawler an unsettling emotional ride.
The cinematography is clean, bright and unpretentious. The film happens mostly at night yet the amount of light in the frame is jarring, giving a surreal feeling to the picture. It’s colourful yet somehow cold. Going forward, this is what will make the film stand out from the crowd along with Gyllenhaal’s performance.
Nightcrawler both entertains and provokes. Just like Bloom’s news footage, it keeps us transfixed to the screen, wondering if we should be watching this, unsure of how to feel. One of the best films of 2014.