At the premiere of Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal responded to his drastic weight loss as a means of being a coyote. The character he portrays, Louis Bloom, is a hungry, hardworking carnivorous creature. In essence, he’s a highly functioning sociopath working in the world of freelance crime journalism in L.A. Think of someone getting paid to do a snuff film. It’s a ruthless and morally bankrupt profession and Gyllenhaal has never dived deeper into a role.
Set in the horizontal backdrop of L.A., the cinematography and direction could not have been more spot on by first time director, Dan Gilroy. He perfectly utilizes the wide, dark, sinister (yet vibrant) nature of the city. L.A. is used as a way to exploit how the media functions today, reporters looking for anything disgusting or shocking to increase the value of their segment. This is what Gilroy has some difficulty conveying. Is this a film about one man’s relentless, morally devoid ascent to the top? Or is it a satire of today’s society? Perhaps that is double-edged sword that Gilroy leaves for the audience to decide. Overall Nightcrawler works on both levels.
Of the many films I have seen this year, Gyllenhaal’s performance as Lou is easily one of the best of the year and hands down his best role to date. His performance channeled Robert De Niro a la Taxi Driver with the instability and psychosis channeled through those ever so expressive eyes of his, seemingly never blinking throughout the whole movie. Gyllenhaal lost an astounding thirty pounds for the role, an ongoing trend of Hollywood’s elite. Does he belong with the elite now? I believe so.
Aside from Gyllenhaal’s performance, the film is further bolstered by the supporting performances. Rene Russo plays a washed out news director working the graveyard shift for the lowest rated news channel. Russo’s performance is her meatiest in years and serves as a great foil to Gyllenhaal’s Bloom. Riz Ahmed portrays Lou’s sidekick, Rick, a subtle, yet integral performance for the movie. The naive nature Rich displays during the beginning of the movie gets pushed into paranoia by Bloom’s intensity and calming nature of insanity. By the end of the film, he collides with Bloom’s psychotic approach to the idea of what hard work and loyalty means.
Lastly, we must not forget the work of James Newton Howard on the score of the film. Every time we see Gyllenhaal chew up a long piece of dialogue, we hear this calming and almost inspiring score done by Howard. It’s so beyond off-putting, but it works perfectly with Gyllenhaal’s expressive face. The sound of optimism mixed with Gyllenhaal’s voice of his own personal reasoning almost makes the viewer believe that he’s in fact right about everything that’s wrong. It was a rare and excellent occurrence where music properly confuses the viewer.
Excellent cinematography channeled with an Academy award-worthy lead performance makes Nightcrawler a must see.