By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
2014 has been quite the year for biting satires (Birdman) and films portraying sociopathic behavior (Gone Girl). Dan Gilroy’s Nighcrawler does an exceptional job of combining these two elements in an intense and disturbing crime drama setting. This closing night feature of this year’s Fantastic Fest enthralled ,perturbed me and completely blew me away. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a superb, edgy performance that definitely deserves nominations at all of the film awards for this year. Not only will this film certainly make my list of the top ten movies of the year, but it is also the best film I saw at Fantastic Fest.
Gyllenhaal stars as Louis Bloom, a man desperately struggling to make a living by any means necessary. When not selling metal or other stolen goods, Bloom pines for the American dream of riches and success. After witnessing freelance videographers recording the aftermath of a car accident, Bloom decides to pursue “nightcrawling” as a source of income, selling video footage to the local news. Hungry for success on his own terms, he resorts to underhanded strategies to capture footage that will make his presence known in broadcast journalism Facing obstacles, which include stiff competition from another freelancer (Bill Paxton), Lou intends to succeed and will eliminate anyone who stands in his way.
Writer/director Dan Gilroy has truly created an unnerving and powerful masterpiece with Nightcrawler. His gut wrenching and biting satire skewers not only the state of news media today, but also the frightening desperation created by our economic problems. One of my colleagues at the festival mentioned hearing a comparison of this movie to the classic news satire, Network, and I cannot agree more. This film is most definitely an extraordinary update to Sidney Lumet’s amazing film. Gilroy’s script and film reveals the dark, blood sucking tendencies of news media and the voracious appetites of their audiences who crave violent and sensational stories. The fact, that he also includes the effect of the economy on those pursuing nightcrawling work, makes this movie all the more brilliant.
Gyllenhaal is an acting revelation in this movie. He delivers what is probably the best performance of his career so far. Because of the development of the Lou Bloom character by Gilroy and Gyllenhaal, this character should be long remembered and will join an esteemed list of creepy and disturbing fictional sociopaths, including Rupert Pupkin, Alex Delarge, and Tyler Durden. It isn’t an instant reveal in the film, but a developmental process that takes place in the story and the transformation is truly disconcerting. The film also has solid performances by Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, and Riz Ahmed.
So, I think it is pretty obvious by now that I highly recommend this movie. People may not praise it for being the feel-good movie of the year, but often times we learn more from uncomfortable experiences than from the pleasant ones. Audiences will have to acknowledge this movie for its excellent writing and direction by Dan Gilroy and the transcendent acting by Gyllenhaal. The movie awards voters would be foolish to not acknowledge their work with nominations.