Nightcrawler - DVD Review

'Lou Bloom is without question one of the most enigmatic and compelling unhinged minds cinema has ever offered us'.

The big screen undeniably has a long-standing preoccupation with characters who aren't quite right in the head. The list of the most memorable cinema has presented us with over the decades is a long and fascinating one: the Golden Age of Hollywood gave us the likes of Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey, with more recent offerings including Black Swan's Nina Sayers and Birdman's Riggan Thomson. Thanks to Nightcrawler, you can safely add another name to that list of greats: Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom is without question one of the most enigmatic and compelling unhinged minds cinema has ever offered us.

From the opening moments of Nightcrawler, Gyllenhaal makes Lou an unassuming yet constantly unsettling presence through a performance charged with subtle, spellbinding energy. Moving with the calculation of a natural born predator, and speaking like he's swallowed the script of every vacuous business seminar and management-speak manual ever written, Lou is simultaneously detestable and captivating. Gyllenhaal's mesmerising performance is equal parts Jordan Belfort and Travis Bickle, with his feet comfortably under the table at the Bates Motel. It's a role that could all too easily alienate, but the actor ensures that Lou always remains relatable, even sympathetic at times, despite his increasingly nefarious deeds and unbridled raw ambition. This is Gyllenhaal on brilliant, electrifying form, putting in a career best performance that only gets better as Nightcrawler progresses.

What elevates writer and director Dan Gilroy's inaugural feature further is his deft and perceptive skewering of contemporary TV journalism. Whether you consider Lou a psychopath or sociopath (although it arguably matters little either way), what is clear is that he is allowed to flourish in his amoral ascent because of the demand for the violent, carnage-heavy footage he captures. Local news director Nina Romina (Rene Russo) both enables and actively encourages Lou, ignoring any concerns from her subordinates over the morality of his footage in favour of pulling in ratings and perpetuating the station's sensationalist agenda. Only Rick (Riz Ahmed) ever offers Lou - and indeed the film - an ethical perspective, but it's one that is constantly muted by the young man's understandable desperation and despondence. The world Gilroy presents for us to consider, but shrewdly never condones, is one that cares little about who it grinds down and even less for moral upstanding. And, perhaps most potently of all, it's one that is perpetually recognisable as our own.

Whilst Nightcrawler has generous helpings of food for thought, Gilroy also crafts his film into a slick and stylish neo-noir crime thriller. The director's crafting of his plot, in particular his focus on a home invasion Lou happens upon and the events that spiral from this during the second half, is gripping and shot through with intensity. Gilroy delivers violence both shocking and authentic, and convincing car chases that course with adrenaline and suspense. Together, Gyllenhaal and Gilroy collectively never put a foot wrong, creating in Nightcrawler one of the most finely executed cinematic masterpieces of recent years.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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