Its been a good week for Jake Gyllenhaal, locally in my view of the world. For me, he went from ho-hum to good actor after streaming Enemy followed closely with seeing this film in theatre.
Nightcrawler is a tense but often darkly comedic thriller diving deep into the world of crime-based video journalism – aka, nightcrawling. Unless you’re living on some island disconnected from reality, you know the media presented through typical channels is biased and often agenda-laden. Even high school students are not surprised by media’s below-belt methods. However, I think this film goes the extra mile to bring just how extreme the ratings-only perspective can manifest itself through its main character, Louis Bloom.
Bloom is a scavenger, making ends meet by unconventional means. One day he discovers he can make a living from recording crime scene footage and becomes obsessed the idea of becoming a nightcrawler. In opening scenes, Louis appears to be a savant, extremely intelligent and motivated, however not subscribing to any normal behaviour pattern. He buys a video camera and police scanner to start his newly discovered career path. After some initial stumbles, he finds some limited success. Later you realize while Louis may be intelligent, he also starts displaying some sociopathic tendencies. As the plot unfolds, Louis finds greater success but simultaneously you realize those sociopathic tendencies are extreme, the results will surprise.
Gyllenhaal, much like his role in Enemy, owned this film completely. Losing some weight and appearing just north of homeless, he managed to capture the nuances of his character with chilling effect. Sometimes portraying himself as the most likable friend, then transitioning abruptly to hard-boiled misanthrope. The long-winded monologues his character delivers as answers to questions or explanations of intent are well-written and delivered with wicked timing.
I was happy to see LA-born Rene Russo in this LA-based film as the strong-willed, morally ambiguous news producer who falls prey to Louis Bloom’s chess board manipulations. While in the beginning you might think the two are made for each, Russo pulls off a believable soul-searching transition where her character evaluates just how far she will go for career advancement.
If you’re looking for an action-suspense film with some extremely dark comedy, gritty street scenes of Los Angeles and what is (arguably) one of Jake Gyllenhaal’s finer performances, Nightcrawler is a good watch.