A thrilling masterwork of precision craftsmanship, an immensely fascinating vignette of the pursuit of American dream & a thought-provoking exposition of the dark side of TV news business, Nightcrawler is a firmly crafted, neatly structured, viciously executed & intensely entertaining thriller that presents its interesting premise in a very polished manner & is expertly directed by Dan Gilroy in what is a sensational directional debut for the eminent screenwriter yet what single-handedly elevates the film to the next level is the absolutely manic performance coming from Jake Gyllenhaal, who continues to impress with the kind of challenging roles he’s been picking of lately while rising through the ranks of Hollywood stardom as one of the finest actors working in the industry today.
Set in the nocturnal underbelly of contemporary Los Angeles, Nightcrawler tells the story of Louis Bloom; a driven young man desperate for work, who finds the break he was looking for when he unearths the vast potential of L.A. crime journalism that thrives on murders & accidents taking place throughout the city during nighttime but relies on freelance cameramen for footage. Sensing the money-making opportunity in this cut-throat profession, Louis completely dedicates himself into the much dangerous realm of nightcrawling by closely following the police sirens for victims & converting their miseries into dollars and with the help of a local TV news veteran eventually succeeds in blurring the thin line between observer & participant to become the star of his own story.
Brilliantly written & fabulously directed by Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler is a blazing work of originality that marks a promising start for the new director & it will be interesting to see where he goes from here. Carefully weighing all its elements & meticulously using the available resources from start to finish, the manner in which all its aspects work in harmony with each other is much worthy of all the praise this film has garnered so far. Cinematography crisply captures the silent, almost deserted look of Los Angeles during nighttime, makes ingenious use of camera placements to immerse the viewers into its sinister premise & seamlessly encapsulates the whole picture with a very quiet sense of foreboding tension. Editing provides a smooth flow to the entire narrative & is carried out in a concise, calculated manner while James Newton Howard’s score simply fits.
Coming to the acting department, Nightcrawler is Jake Gyllenhaal’s show from the very beginning to the very end. Considered by many to be one of cinema’s most promising talents, this is where Gyllenhaal firmly establishes himself as one of the finest actors around for his work here is the real highlight of the film plus his unsettling yet infectious screen presence ends up making his character all the more compelling. From the gaunt appearance to those unblinking eyes & creepy smirk, Gyllenhaal completely gets under the skin of Louis “Lou” Bloom & plays the sociopath with riveting finesse to carve out a jaw-dropping performance that’s easily his career-best work. It’s no easy job to make the viewers care for an unlikable character yet the part of Lou is so masterly penned down & magnificently performed that we can’t help but find ourselves drawn to this individual despite knowing that he is untrustworthy, too self-centred & completely deranged.
However, the film also benefits from the commendable support work that comes from Rene Russo, Bill Paxton & Riz Ahmed in their given roles. Rene Russo chips in with a fabulous performance as Nina; a local TV news veteran who aids Lou & encourages him to pursue his dreams, only to find herself trapped in his single-minded ambitions once he starts preying on her weaknesses. Bill Paxton is in as Joe; a much experienced freelance videographer through whom Lou discovers this lucrative business & ultimately becomes his fierce competitor as the plot progresses. Lastly, we have Riz Ahmed playing Rick; a young man desperate for money whom Lou hires as an assistant. And even though Gyllenhaal’s maddening rendition easily overshadows the input of rest of its cast, these secondary characters aren’t present to just fill in the blanks but are clearly defined with a purpose & play a relevant role in uncovering even more disturbing side of Lou’s persona.
On an overall scale, Nightcrawler can be seen as a stinging satire of TV news business, a biting criticism of modern capitalist society & a contrary interpretation of American dream yet above all, it remains a deeply unsettling yet immensely fascinating character study of a fanatical sociopath. Just like Louis Bloom, the film is camouflaged with a calm demeanour but deep within its surface brews a murderous rage that’s waiting to explode any moment. Just like Louis Bloom, it preys on the viewers’ vulnerabilities by exposing the dark side of human nature we’re all easily attracted to. And just like Louis Bloom, it manages to carve out its own identity by being not just persistent with its content but ruthlessly aggressive as well. Ingeniously shifting its tones by blending subtle moments of humour into its dark ambience and bolstered by Jake Gyllenhaal’s coyote-like presence & bone-chilling performance, Nightcrawler is one of the best films to come out this year that’s visually enticing, emotionally gripping & technically accomplished. Don’t miss it.