Recommended Viewing Situation:
Sitting alone in the dark filming your own kidnapping.
Running Time: 117 minutes.
Format: Alexa Digital and HDV.
Director: Dan Gilroy.
Writer: Dan Gilroy.
Cinematographer: Robert Elswit.
This film’s title doesn’t really do it justice. You might imagine something that creeps up your skin in the dead of night, or someone who stalks the streets in the moonlight. That’s all fine, but it’s not enough. Nightcrawler (2014) embodies intensity. It is unrelenting. The story focuses on the strangely unhinged loner Louis ‘Lou’ Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), an ex petty thief who embarks on a new career as a ‘stringer’, recording traffic accidents live in Los Angeles and selling them to local news stations.
In his directorial debut (shot only in 5 weeks), Dan Gilroy throws us into Lou’s world of isolation and depravity promptly, highlighting the bleak realities of the L.A. media industry and those who control it. Gilroy doesn’t pull any punches with his characters; Lou and his boss Nina Romina (Rene Russo) are biting, almost seething satires and this is why the film has some rather humorous moments. However, it’s not a laugh out loud kind of humour, it is excoriating, it is a laugh of absurdity. To this effect, Gyllenhaal and Russo’s performances are quite electrifying. Yet, this film could not create all that it does without the nuanced cinematography of the legendary Robert Elswit (Inherent Vice 2015), who handles the mixing of formats seamlessly and allows you to see every shade of black imaginable on the screen.
Overall, this film isn’t just about isolation or the evils of American mass media; it’s about detachment in the modern age and how, in some Zizekian nightmare, we turn to obsessions in the face of it. Put simply, what is quite so engaging and at the same time utterly repulsive is Lou as a ‘normal’ person. He is a sociopath of course but then again so are his co-workers. We understand their actions because they are obsessed by money and the American ideology that surrounds it. This is one of the few films that hold’s a mirror up to society; it shows us the darkest side of ourselves, the cost of humanity and the malignity of decisions made everyday in the media background that is the new millennium. Be prepared for a tough ride with this film and also look out for Riz Ahmed’s (Four Lions 2010) great supporting role as Rick the assistant.