It doesn’t take much guessing from the trailers, but Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut thriller Nightcrawler is a satire at it’s core. Media saturation and the ethics in which news corporations operate in are questionable at best and Gilroy is going to show us why.

Nightcrawler Film Review

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom – a jobless thief and liar survivalist obsessed with achieving success. He’s highly self-educated and incredibly logical – albeit for a selfish end. Bloom is stuck in a rut, however, and lacks direction for his practically autistic focus. This is until he happens to pass a burning vehicle and a badly injured woman. A freelance TV crew turn up and grab their footage of the wreck and bloodied woman and leave all the richer for it. Lou likes what he sees and decides freelance crime journalism is his calling. He steals a bike, buys a camera and police scanner and starts his quest to become primetime. His business booms after selling his footage to TV news producer Nina (Rene Russo) so much so he employs a satnav in Rick (Riz Ahmed).

Lou’s taste of success only grows his hunger and inevitably the story unravels into a cynical and darkly comic satire on journalism, the job market and self-help culture. The script is perfectly over-the-top and Lou Bloom as the American dream’s black sheep is pitched on the money. There’s plenty of laughs and one-liners but the film is truly as eerie as it is comic – this creepiness is helped by Gyllenhaal losing 30 pounds for the role which instantly makes him feel off-key.

Gilroy’s directing is very good. The film is paced wonderfully and there are nice touches throughout with video screens being used as the medium to see crime scenes. The stand-out car chase is also done excellently (Gilroy was involved with the Bourne series so it’s no surprise). The LA night-time setting also give us reminders of Drive which is no bad thing.

Nightcrawler isn’t quite clever enough in it’s delivery to be a top notch satire and it isn’t tense enough to be a memorable thriller. But is does have Jake Gyllenhaal – and he is fantastic. The necessity for Bloom to be likeable and interesting enough to carry the film is a heavy load that Gyllenhaal takes in his stride despite smirks that are smug, malicious and always deeply insincere. He’s vulnerable and quick-witted and you soon forget or forgive that the smiles aren’t genuine. Gilroy should be applauded for being brave enough to rely so heavily on Bloom’s character also.

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Rene Russo is competent enough but it’s not unfair to say her performance is forgettable. Her casting may well (or may well not) be explained by her 12 year marriage to director Gilroy (this may also explain the lack of sex scene with Gyllenhaal). Riz Ahmed does the job as ‘one-of-us’ never knowing how far Gyllenhaal, or indeed he, will have to go.

You get the point of Nightcrawler within 20 minutes. Media is bad sometimes: Nina jokes about whether the TV station can show footage of a bloodied body and is asked if she means legally, “Legally!? No. Morally!”, she jokes. The real intrigued and success of the film is that the audience are implied/complicit in this sordid media affair. Lou Bloom is a horrible human being – yet we still find him attractive as a character. We can forgive the robbing, cheating and zero empathy, as long as they make interesting viewing. Nightcrawler is at the very least that.

Nightcrawler is released in the UK on the 31st October.

Nightcrawler Film Review: 4 stars

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