Thursday, 3 March 2016

I've Just Seen: Nightcrawler (2014)

Nightcrawler (2014)

Director: Dan Gilroy

Most villians in horror films, usually the personification of particular human fears, rarely scare me. I am aware they are a construct often carried to its extreme, and I generally admire their depiction rather than cowering at their presence. Though Gilroy's film is not in the horror genre, the character of Louis Bloom is a truly frightening creature, largely because he seems so very human. We know there are people like Louis Bloom in the world; people so determined in their pursuit of their dreams that they really will stop at nothing to achieve them. And even more concerning, society generally rewards such behaviour.

We are in a similar world to Philip Marlowe's 1940s L.A. in Nightcrawler: a dark, crime-ridden city populated by amoral types. These 'nightcrawlers' scuttle around the city like insects, looking for delicious stories (bloody car crashes, police shoot outs, drug busts - the more horrific the better) to satisfy the rolling News channels. Gyllenhaal's Bloom finds he has a good eye for capturing this footage, sometimes an even better eye than the real event itself - he moves bodies in order to emphasis their mangled state, and cuts out shots that don't work with the narrative he wants to tell.

Gyllenhaal performance is perfect. His natural charm and good looks are contrasted with an awful haircut and terrible clothes, which give him a creepy vibe. Gyllenhaal uses his strking eyes to full effect, as Bloom maintains an intense gaze throughout, a gaze that seems to be focused on his next goal, whether that be appraising a crime scene, or pressuring another character to do what he wants. Rene Russo and Riz Ahmed are wonderful as Bloom's closest colleagues, Nina and Rick. They bear the brunt of Louis' psychopathic behaviour, but have very different reactions to it.

This is a great film, and is particularly impressive in its depiction of a truly amoral character. Gilroy breaks one of the cardinale rules of screenwriting: the main character going on a journey, and some part of them changing as a result (usually for the better). Louis Bloom doesn't really change: he character simply gets stronger, confirmed in its own habits and beliefs. And that leaves the audience deeply unsettled.


  1. This is currently my favorite film from 2014. It's so dark and so brutal, and I love that it really goes to where it wants and doesn't pull its punches.

    I see it as a natural child of Network. That would make a hell of a double feature!

    1. It made me gasp in shock at just how far it went - sign of a good film.

      That would be one cynical double bill, but also very brilliant!

  2. It really is a good film. I finally watched it after so many people praised it. What a strong performance from Jake.

    1. I was worried that it wouldn't live up to the hype. Of course it was just as good as everyone said it was.