As Dan Gilroy’s cinematic debut opens, our protagonist is stealing metal fencing – only to be interrupted and questioned by an officer. We will never know what happened to the man who confronts our lead character, Lou Bloom, in the opening moments of Nightcrawler. The only glaring clue as to his fate is clasped around Bloom’s wrist. Our ‘nightcrawler’ wears the man’s watch for the remainder of the film – a constant and creepy reminder of the unpredictability and instability of its new owner. Bloom makes up for his lack of education by studying on-line. This gives him an intelligence and insight that he uses to manipulate, motivate and, above all, justify. Bloom is a professional. He has a polite and confident matter; all he lacks is a profession. When he witnesses the thrills and excitement of the crime journalism that surges through the streets of down town Los Angeles, he is instantly hooked. A self-confessed fast-learner, it doesn’t take Lou long to find his place within this specific medium, sussing out and threatening the competition as he progresses. Racing down the streets of a neon-vibrant L.A to get to collisions, murders, assaults or anything which involves the bloody deaths of the wealthy and the white, Bloom is determined to get the best footage of the goriest tragedies. The big News-stations pay big money for the most gruesome of recordings and, whilst constantly trying to better himself, Bloom rapidly gets swept up in the viscous and polluted world of investigative media. What makes Nightcrawler even more disturbing is not the graphic content that Bloom’s camera captures but the cool manner in which Bloom himself approaches such sorrow and violence and the complete lack of empathy and ethical thinking he displays. In this world, victims are purely sales and murder merely money. There are few rules and even fewer morals involved.
Nightcrawler has all the intensity and energy you would expect from a really great debut feature. It also has the mastery that come from not only a director’s first film but a combined directorial and scripted project. Gilroy conducts Nightcrawler with a glorious awareness of just what type of movie this is. It is a triumphant debut that excels and delights from start to finish. Jake Gyllenhaal reaches new operatic heights in Nightcrawler proving himself to be the Gosling to Gilroy’s Winding Refyn. This is a performance like no other you’ll see this year. What makes Bloom so terrifying and yet so fascinating is the balance that Gyllenhaal strikes between madness and soundness, professional and criminal, friend and enemy. A character as unique, complex and unfathomable as Bloom has given Gyllenhaal the freedom to test the boundaries of his artistic capability and expand the limits of his personal craft. Riz Ahmed also gives a convincing and impressive supporting performance which brings him and his versatility to American audiences. Nightcrawler and its setting are electric. Here, L.A. is glowing with sin and chaos, like a neon sign buzzing – fuelled by the unethical happenings that plague it. Nightcrawler is as cool as it is creepy. Along with Gone Girl this is the second film I’ve seen this month that questions the moral fabric of twenty-four-hour news broadcasting. This is bold and brilliant film-making – filling the void that Drive created and left in all of us.
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