REVIEW: Nightcrawler (2014)

The following is a review of Nightcrawler — Directed by Dan Gilroy.

In Nightcrawler, the directorial debut of The Bourne Legacy-co-writer Dan Gilroy, we meet Louis Bloom (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) a guileful thief, desperate for a chance at a job. As Bloom traverses through Los Angeles at night, he, at one point, encounters Joe Loder (played by Bill Paxton), a so-called ‘stringer’ who makes a living by selling footage of violent crimes or accidents in the Los Angeles nightlife to local news stations. Bloom becomes intrigued, acquires a cam-corder and a police scanner, and slowly begins to climb up the ladder of relative success as an unscrupulous freelance photojournalist. But when Bloom then becomes an employer, he becomes decidedly unhinged. Bloom is a quick learner, and if he wants something, he’s prepared to take it by any means necessary.

I saw the film in a completely empty movie theater in Taastrup, Denmark. Although it’s nice for a movie reviewer to be able to take notes freely in an empty theater, it is a real shame that a film as incredible as Gilroy’s debut didn’t attract a sizable audience. As I sat down to watch the film, I remember that I expected something akin to a mash-up of American Psycho and The Wolf of Wall Street, but I was unsure whether it was more the former or the latter. In reality, this feels much more like a modern update on The King of Comedy and Taxi Driver. as it features a loony loner with questionable social skills as the main character. Jake Gyllenhaal is absolutely amazing as Louis ‘Lou’ Bloom. This isn’t just because of the clear and obvious weight loss. Gyllenhaal delivers a career-best performance as he channels Robert De Niro, but he also adds his own spin to the character. There is an ambitiousness and an inhumanity to his performance that is just jaw-dropping. You can’t take your eyes off Gyllenhaal, who transforms himself into this awkward loner who is also a frightening parasite. The lighting does a lot to help Gyllenhaals transformation, as he can look both sickly, smooth, and rubbery depending on his surroundings.

This is a character-driven story, and Gyllenhaal is the main reason to go and see this film, but it is also important to note that this film does have something to say for itself. The film presents social commentary on the way news glorifies violence, as well as the way news stations estimates the monetary worth of different social classes. This is explored, in part, via Bloom’s relationship with Nina Romina (played by Rene Russo), a morning news director. In what is an eerie conclusion to that ‘relationship,’ we see his disturbing footage in the background while Gyllenhaal’s piercing eyes meet the ones of Russo. She is captivated by him, he’s her dealer and the footage is her drug, or put plainly, it’s what keeps her working. It is incredible to watch Bloom climb the ladder of success — and to see him change in front of us — but it is also frightening to see where Russo’s yearning for graphic footage takes him.

Jake Gyllenhaal has given a genuinely Oscar-worthy performance in this modern update on The King of Comedy and Taxi Driver, which also includes the most thrilling final act in any film released this year. This isn’t just an outstanding directorial debut, it is a masterpiece.

10 out of 10

A previous version of this review had a final score of nine out of ten, but, after having rewatched the film, the review was updated and the score was adjusted to a perfect score of ten out of ten.

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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