Dan Gilroy wrote and directed my favourite black comedy of 2014, Nightcrawler. Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a psychopath looking for a new job and it just so happens that he excels at capturing news footage for a local TV station in Los Angeles. How far will our cameraman go to acquire the perfect story?
Fans of American Psycho (2000) will be quick to draw parallels with the perverted yuppie Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) however the likeness is simply in the intensity of each protagonists' mannerisms and social disconnect that differentiates them from regular folk. Their focus and determination to succeed is inspiring and scary, which makes for great entertainment. Where American Psycho's Bateman flirts with ambiguity (did he do that or was it all in his head?), Nightcrawler's Bloom is consistently deranged from start to finish.
The other inevitable comparison that critics will cling to is the whole Drive (2011) vibe. Some critics are hating on the score for its lack of throbbing bass and dark, moody ambience because that is what we expect from the genre. Nightcrawler does not have to be like Drive. The score is a departure from the expected and emphasises the spectrum of hilarity that ensues throughout the 117 minutes of pure awesome.
Bloom is an amateur informed by hours of desk research and by observing other professionals on the street. One such professional is the rival cameraman played by the brilliant Bill Paxton.
To expand his operations, and to act as a convenient plot tool to prevent Bloom from talking to himself, Bloom hires a young man (Riz Ahmed) because he has a phone with GPS capability.
Half of the film goes through the motions of setting the place, the situation and introducing the main cast. We have to see the seedy side of LA; we need to understand where Bloom is coming from; we should appreciate the individuals who affect Bloom's new career choice.
The pace was surprisingly balanced—never a dull moment—thanks to the incredible dialogue. Finally, a story that takes great care with the spoken word rather than expend the budget on pretty explosions and so on.
Bloom's intelligent manipulation of his sidekick brought comic relief whereas Bloom's interactions with his boss progress to a very daring proposition/extortion that is executed to perfection.
Conversations were nuanced to the point where there were moments that the audience laughed out loud. The tone of the film is mostly serious however your eyes fixate on Gyllenhaal for the entire journey—the man owns the role.
Tension grips you in the final act. Bloom is obsessed with capturing the perfect news story and the question is: how far will he go to succeed? Where average films flail with romantic subplots, or some other tedious nonsense, Nightcrawler plays its strengths by maintaining the focus on this crazy guy.
Rational thinking is personified by the sidekick and you really fear for this boy's safety.
Traipsing the lines of ethics and legality is what this film is all about. The satire/analysis of sensational headlines—puff pieces about crime—is a bold statement about contemporary mainstream media and more importantly: where journalism is headed.
The ending justified the message of Nightcrawler. This film is worth revisiting. And if you own a camera please do not give into vicarious temptation by chasing a lead when ambulance and police sirens sing because you could become the next Lou Bloom.