Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a piercing, career defining performance of a sociopath, gripped by a compulsion to document something that he thinks people want, with the sheer purpose of becoming somebody. Without any employment prospects, Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal) watches a small camera crew capture the fallout of a highway wreck, and sees money and excitement in sharing these dark spaces of existence. He purchases a camcorder and a police radio and and begins his voyeruistic enterprise, selling his footage more and more profitably, with increasing moral dubiousness. His deadpan earnestness to pursue his strange goals provides a source of brilliant, bizarre humour, not least between Bloom and his ‘intern’ Rick (Riz Ahmed) from whom Bloom clearly takes perverted pleasure, taking advantage of Rick’s own desperation for work.
This is an unbelievably bold and assured directorial debut from Dan Gilroy. Nightcrawler is a film in tone and topic which is difficult to find comparisons. The Social Network is perhaps one reference, in the way both films express how a society determined to share all corners of existence actually fractures relationships and makes us less attached to reality. Nightcrawler is an eerie, brooding thrilling, led by the distorted charisma of Gyllenhaal’s alienating eyes. His character seems so unfamiliar and different to anything seen before but he still cradles an odd, uncomfortable truth about how people think. Gilroy has constructed a fascinating film about perspective, empathy and technology and looking through his lens nothing looks how it should be, but yet it still looks unnervingly like real life.
Review by David Rank
Nightcrawler is out now. Running time 115 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).