In Review: Nightcrawler

by Daniel Goodwin on 30/10/2014


In this age of web-flaunted art and opinions, it’s refreshing to see a film based in the analogue-like backrooms of TV and about a character who doesn’t want to be famous or express an inner artist. Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom is a materialistic, intriguing creation and only interested in what people think of him in terms of whether or not it will get him a job.

We meet Bloom dead-eyed and at the scene of a crime. After struggling to find work in other professions he inadvertently worms his way into a freelance cameraman vocation by capitalising on a passer-by’s phone call. Bloom then arms himself with a digital camera and police scanner, sets out to captures the aftermath of accidents and crime scenes, then farms the footage on to hungry news productions. But as events pile up his fortitude results in repercussions that threaten to unmask Bloom for who he truly is beneath the sales-pitch surface.

Bloom is terse, charismatic (when he wants to be) and a live-wire with simmering psychotic undertones. But Bloom is just a fragment of Nightcrawler. Acting as sardonic commentary on primetime sensationalism and a compelling character study, Nightcrawler burrows into the windowless edit suites of TV news like a dark mutation of Network (1976). It scours the lurid lamp-lit streets of LA’s slick urban milieu casting a shadow of Winding Refn while emanating early Scorsese, particularly After Hours (1985), with a script that both disputes and strengthens its status as a media satire.

Gyllenhaal conjures a callous sociopath, operating without fear or empathy. He is so electrifying yet reserved, costing the viewer considerable effort to figure him out. Rene Russo is also excellent as hardened news producer Nina, exuding a resolute churlishness while Riz Ahmed provides stellar support as Bloom’s terrified intern Rick, along with Bill Paxton as a surly competitor. Strong characters from writer/director Dan Gilroy’s slick vision sit well in his tight screenplay, producing a tale seething with tension.

Nightcrawler is a multifarious film of magnificent, beguiling design. It is methodical, paradoxical in its ostensibly modern air with a retro feel and electro score by James Newton Howard. Exuding an awe-inspiring lustre, Nightcrawler could emerge a front runner at next year’s Academy Awards, as it is by far the best film of 2014.

Daniel has awarded Nightcrawler five Torches of Truth

5 torches

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