When Lou Bloom, a driven man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story. Aiding him in his effort is Nina, a TV-news veteran.
Proof positive that first time directors can make astounding debut films. Dan Gilroy writes and directs what may well be regarded as one of the years’ standalone surprises with the story of Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal), an entrepreneurial chancer that becomes inspired by a television news crew as he views them doing their job during a car crash on the interstate. Nightcrawler (the definition applied to those photo-journalists that go looking for trouble at night in order to sell their footage to television news syndicates) is a tense, edgy and always watchable episode of one driven individuals’ attempts to find his own profitable niche.
Lou Bloom is always looking for opportunities and as the film presents him to us, you may be forced to ask the question about why this man finds himself in his current predicament, given his admirable qualities? He is keen, willing to work for little or no money, intelligent and imaginative. So why the problem finding an employer? His mind is consistently fixed on the amount of money he can earn and every action he takes is seemingly based around that pursuit. He is worryingly focused, in fact.
“if you want to win the lottery, you need to make the money to buy a ticket.”
And this may be the very reason that he finds himself without suitable employment. He is eloquent and not afraid to prove it. He has a stare that would unnerve Hitler and his whole being seems coiled, ready to explode into action at a moments notice. He is, essentially, a stick of dynamite looking for its fuse.
Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Bloom is nothing short of electric and he is impossible to tear yourself away from whenever he is on screen, having seemingly nailed the very being of this sociopath with at least one eye on profit. He is completely magnetic and the tension and unpredictability Gyllenhaal infuses into the character is a truly formidable. After seeing Enemy earlier this year, I would have found it impossible at the time to imagine a better performance from him this year. Goes to show you never can tell, but it is easy to suggest that he is having one of his best years as an actor since Donnie Darko was released.
None of this would be possible, of course, without a brilliantly observed script and a simple but highly effective tale and character study, as provided by first time director Dan Gilroy. Gilroy also takes writing credit for the story and you can tell that the man himself is clearly going to be a force to be reckoned with in the future, seeing as he does appear to have an enviable command of both word and deed on screen and paper.
Supported ably by the nervous, overwhelmed and long-suffering Riz Ahmed as desperate cohort/sidekick and the smart and confident television news director Rene Russo, the audience can have absolutely no complaints when it comes to casting, as all of the players here are on point and Gilroy has clearly taken pains to make it clear to his cast that this should be a lean, uncomfortable, urgent, expectant experience, which they have taken on board excellently, judging by their respective appearances.
In short, one of the best films of the year and a very pleasant surprise bonus from Gyllenhaal, who may find himself on the end of many an award ceremony nomination in the next few months. Highly recommended indeed.