Jake Gyllenhaal has been in a lot of movies over the course of his career and as of late he has done a good job of ridding himself of the horror that was Prince of Persia. Since then, he has turned in some of his best performances ranging from Brothers to Prisoners and now most recently, Nightcrawler. He has excelled in these roles that are much more intense and darker then most roles he has taken in his career but there has been more depth to them too. Nightcrawler, however, is different as it is a bit of a neo-noir film that shines a lot on how disturbing the media can be. The lengths that people go to in order to present news to us and how we as people cannot turn away from violence on television. It presents plenty of morality questions for the characters involved while also making it's viewers think a bit.
The plot of the film follows Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is a young man in the greater Los Angeles area driven to make a name for himself by any means necessary. One night, he stumbles across a horrible accident on the freeway and finds himself in the world of video journalism. Lou goes out and buys himself a camcorder and a police scanner to go out at night and film some horrible accidents. Eventually, he arrives at the scene of a stabbing and gets up close to the victim, showing the blood on film. A local news station director, Nina (Rene Russo), buys his work and encourages him to continue as she believes he has a good eye for this kind of work. Now, with his foot in the door he decides to hire himself an assistant in a young man named Rick (Riz Ahmed), who is equally desperate to make a few bucks. However knowing this, Lou takes advantage of him and the two begin to push the envelope further and further with complete disregard for any kind of morality.
In ways, this film reminds me of Drive a few years back. It is a very quiet film with very little action but the tension throughout the film is evident throughout as you can sense that things are just going to constantly get worse as Lou will continue to push further and further in order to get a good story. Lou never has any issues with creating a situation that will lead to a good story and money for himself. It is unsettling seeing him consistently push the envelope but just like on the twelve o'clock news we can't turn away from it, no matter how violent it may get. On that note, that is what makes the film thought provoking as it pokes at the notion that us as people and viewers cannot take our eyes off of a bloody pileup on the freeway or a murder in a nice area. No matter how awful the news may be, we just eat it up.
Jake Gyllenhaal gives a terrific performance in the role of the sociopath, Louis Bloom, as it is his most powerful role to date and frequently you forget that it is him. He is so intense and so committed to the role in the sense that he lost weight to come off a bit like he was sick but he also had certain mannerisms that were completely uncharacteristic of himself as an actor. It is always nice to see an actor challenge himself and go against his natural mold. Gyllenhaal did the exact same thing in his role as Detective Loki in Prisoners last year. Riz Ahmed as the desperate Rick is also impressive, but simply as a foil to the intense Lou. Rick is frequently shown as being a little uneasy about what he and Lou are doing while questioning the morality of their work. Aside from them, praise should really go to Dan Gilroy the director and writer of the film. He does a fantastic job of framing the action and the film moves at a very good pace. Sometimes these kind of films have a tendency to go on for too long in an attempt to build more tension, but this film just feels right at it's running time that allows all of it's plot points just enough time to breath. Nightcrawler may not be your average Halloween movie, but it is equally creepy and disturbing while giving us as viewers a terrific neo-noir crime thriller that will leave you thinking about.