Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a fantastic performance in Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut “Nightcrawler”. The film is pretty blatant about its themes of dehumanisation, capitalism, the pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps American attitude, and so on, but does it with such style I didn’t find myself too bothered.
The film is clearly very influenced by “Network”, and while its social commentary isn’t done quite as well as that film, Gyllenhaal’s performance really is worth raving about. He lost a lot of weight for the role and looks vaguely inhuman, zombie-like, sunken behind the eyes as he delivers his robotic pro-capitalist sunny corporate lines. Gyllenhaal’s character, Lou Bloom, isn’t just a business-obsessed slimeball though, he seems honestly confused and unaware of social conventions to the point of sociopath, and Gyllenhaal sells it perfectly. It’s a chilling performance, and often transcends the quality of the writing (which isn’t even bad, just unsubtle). He’s a near-demonic manifestation of the psychopathy people like Gilroy think is inherent to capitalism.
My two big issues with the film are the score, and the blunt writing that starts emerging around the end. The score just really didn’t work for me. I felt like it barely matched tonally with the film; not emphasising the creepy sunniness of Bloom, or the feeling of L.A. at night. As for the blunt writing, around the third act Gilroy becomes noticeably more heavy-handed, spelling out his thematic concerns and having too many dialogues too on-the-nose about Bloom’s actions. “Network” maintained its tone the whole running time, and it was a shame to see Gilroy slightly lose control of Nightcrawler’s.
A strong film in its own right, Nightcrawler works best as a showcase for Gyllenhaal who delivers a stunning performance. A tad clunky and ham-fisted here and there, Nightcrawler nonetheless is a very impressive directorial debut.
I give it three and a half reels of footage, and a pair of shades.