Navigating the night

Jake Gyllenhaal gives a chilling performance in “Nightcrawler,” a film centered around the world of freelance cameramen in Los Angeles.

Mary Strother, Writer

Some of the best films feel alive. They have a pulse and a movement that allows them to move freely, albeit temporarily, into our minds. “Nightcrawler,” directed by Dan Gilroy, represents one of those films. “Nightcrawler” has a pulse, it signifies the beating heart of Los Angeles by night and the risks that self-starter Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), will take to get ahead.

For a man perpetually stuck in odd jobs, it seems like Lou could find his big break when he discovers the world of “nightcrawlers,” self-made cameramen who make it their mission to be the first ones on the scene of home invasions, car accidents and neighborhood shootings in order to sell their footage to local news stations. Armed with a camcorder and a police scanner, Lou hits the road to learn the tricks of the trade and soon strikes an exclusive deal with KWLA after his video of a mugging gone wrong impresses the studio manager.

We soon learn that Lou is amoral and unwilling to compromise on what he feels he deserves for his hard work. The bounds of journalistic ethics become pushed to limits as Lou moves elements of an active crime scene to better fit his ideal shot, and arrives even before the police do in order to film a grisly triple homicide. Pushing the bounds of acceptability, Lou drives forward in an attempt to get ahead of the competition and to become, for the first time in his life, the best at something. Though his tendencies seem far more sociopathic in nature than anything else, Lou remains charming despite his horrific audacity.

The fact that such an alarming character remains watchable can be attributed to the profound talent and control shown by actor Jake Gyllenhaal, whose dramatic weight loss and rapid-fire speech portray a haunting image. Gyllenhaal plays Lou as charismatic as he is ruthless, in what I would call the best performance of the year so far. First-time director Dan Gilroy, who also wrote the screenplay, shows dramatic potential as the quick yet smooth shots bring you further in to Lou Bloom’s compelling vision of Los Angeles and the world at large.


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