“Nightcrawler”, a friend asked me, “that’s the one where Jake Gyllenhaal is crazy, right?” While this is a fairly broad statement, it’s also dead on. Nightcrawler, the tale of an up and coming freelance news journalist, is an exciting nail biter, but only when Gyllenhaal graces the screen. The film, a modestly budgeted crime thriller, is mostly a one man show and doesn’t quite deliver beyond that.
Yet there is no doubt that Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom, a relentless maniac looking to climb the ladder of life, is captivating. Whenever Gyllenhaal is on screen – which is almost the entire film – he demands the audience’s attention. But Gyllenhaal’s finest moments come in solitude when he can let the character nuances he’s engineered for Bloom can shine through uninterrupted and unhindered by the film’s average supporting cast.
Gyllenhaal’s Bloom proves that he will stop at nothing until he can become something of substance. Which for him, in his newfound career as a freelance television journalist, means becoming owner and operator of a “professional video service,” which is really just a group of people with cameras and police scanners rushing to crime scene’s to nab juicy footage for the six o’clock news. His desire to achieve success sets him on a dark path of sabotage and manipulation, which becomes equal parts physical and emotional.
Gyllenhaal disappears into a career-defining role that comes at the peak of a string of solid career decisions and impressive turns including films like Prisoners and End of Watch. But overacted performances from Rene Russo and Bill Paxton prevent Nightcrawler from becoming the Best Picture contender that it so much wants to be.
Ultimately, Nightcrawler becomes a bit stale and repetitive, coming across simply as a presentation of events rather than a transformative character study. Writer-Director Dan Gilroy intentionally restricts Bloom from having any sort of character arc; a decision that I personally think hinders the film.
Rather than be the tale of a man who realizes he must stop at nothing to achieve his goal, it’s the tale of a man who knows exactly what he has to do and how to do it, he just has to go out and put his money where his mouth is. In a way, this seems representative of Gilroy and the film itself, which seems to lack a sense of spontaneity that typically defines films of this nature. But at the end of the day, Gyllenhaal is impressive, and his performance undoubtedly saves the film.
Nightcrawler is out in UK cinemas now