Jake Gyllenhaal gives a career best performance in Nightcrawler. His portrayal of shock news footage merchant Louis Bloom recalls the sociopathic, delusional characters of Travis Bickle or Rupert Pupkin from Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy respectively. But Bloom is also a unique character in his own right – a truly alarming embodiment of the dark side of the American Dream in the 21st Century.
It is clear from the very beginning that Bloom will go do anything to achieve his aims. His ambition to own a successful news footage gathering business immediately puts him at odds with competitor Joe Loder (Bill Paxton), who at first dismisses his amateur efforts. But Louis Bloom is a fast learner and soon gets to scenes of accidents or police incidents quicker than anyone else. He finds an eager buyer in local news producer Nina Romina (Rene Russo), and from there begins to achieve success. He subsequently hires the initially naïve Rick (Riz Ahmed) as an assistant, who increasingly becomes wise to the insane lengths his employer will go to – everything from rearranging corpses in car crashes to get a better shot to withholding vital information from police.
Writer/director Dan Gilroy makes terrific use of LA locations and the film is dark and atmospheric courtesy of cinematographer Robert Elswit. James Newton Howard contributes a fine score and the supporting performances are all good.
But it is Gyllenhaal who dominates, really bringing Gilroy’s incisive and uncompromising screenplay to life. Nightcrawler is both a satire of a fearmongering, hysterical US news media and a pleasingly scathing examination of modern corporate culture in miniature. Amid Bloom’s increasingly immoral actions, he lectures Rick using corporate nonsense-speak about performance reviews and the like, even in one hilarious moment promoting him to “vice president” in a company with two employees.
I have to add the usual warnings for swearing and violence but nothing was gratuitous or out of context. In final analysis, Nightcrawler is a surefire awards contender (expect Oscar nominations – especially for Gyllenhaal) and a superbly gripping piece of work.