After trying to keep a troubled Hugh Jackman in check in last year's Prisoners, Jake Gyllenhaal is back with yet another dark, strange and, incidentally, really strong flick: Nightcrawler.
Think Drive crossed with something a bit sleazier like David Cronenberg's Crash with some newsroom-themed satire thrown in. A super-skinny, crazy-eyed Gyllenhaal plays a small-time thief with big, if achievable, aspirations who discovers a new business opportunity through filming real crime or accident scenes and selling the footage to a news channel: the more graphic the footage, the better. Rene Russo is the TV producer buying what the dodgy freelance journalist has to offer, encouraging him the entire time to keep up the good work and deliver juicier and juicier footage. But even she did not realize the full extent of Louis Bloom's (Gyllenhaal) lack of morality and sociopathy. Director Dan Gilroy has created a truly fascinating, complex character in the vein of Robert De Niro's Travis Bickle: everything Louis knows comes from buzzwords he picked up in "how to succeed in business"-type books or the internet and his dream is essentially to become someone's boss.
The film is a biting statement on the modern corporate world, a world run by the soulless, living off those who are trying to survive through any means necessary, even if that means becoming soulless themselves. The news media is also shown up as rather cold and inhuman both in terms of the desperation for higher ratings and how channels go about gathering their content, though Gilroy wisely includes a character who is constantly amazed by Russo and Gyllenhaal's quiet bliss when faced with particularly gruesome footage. Nightcrawler is one dark movie tonally with some nail-biting, at times uncomfortable sequences and a central performance so confident and convincing it's genuinely creepy. You believe this guy and others like him exist and it's a frightening thought. Also look out for Bill Paxton as another, much less demented freelancer.
Where Drive was all style, not enough sleaze, Nightcrawler balances both much better and remains visually gritty yet still slick enough to impress throughout. For a directorial debut, this is one surprisingly accomplished effort with every line and frame carefully and beautifully crafted, usually to make you feel as awkward as possible about a character or a situation. With this movie, Dan Gilroy has cemented himself as one talented filmmaker to look out for and Jake Gyllenhaal, here's hoping, should get some recognition come Oscars time. As promising and as good as Nightcrawler is, however, it sadly shoots itself in the foot right at the end with a rushed, easy ending which ends a genius build-up abruptly, making the film feel unfinished and leaving you wanting more. It's an anti-climactic denouement to put it lightly and that really hurts an otherwise pretty flawless flick.
While not perfect, Nightcrawler is most definitely worth checking out: this is a tense, bleak, darkly funny (at times) look into the twisted mind of a sociopath with one truly bizarre and depressing vision of the American dream.
Good news indeed.