Nightcrawler – Review by Frances Winston
Directed by: Dan Gilroy
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton, Kevin Rahm
In cinemas October 31st
Although the title of this and it’s Halloween release date may suggest a horror film, Nightcrawler is actually the term used to describe freelance camera crews who trawl the streets looking for accidents and carnage in order to film it and sell it to news channels.
Gyllenhall plays Louis bloom a small time thief who hasn’t found his calling in life. When he stumbles upon an accident one night and sees a freelance news crew, headed by Joe Loder (Paxton), filming it he is enthralled and resolves to get into the game himself. Purchasing a camcorder and a police scanner he starts monitoring accident calls and rushing to the sites of crimes in order to get footage. His brusque manner and lack of propriety soon mean that he has recorded some truly gruesome scenes and he manages to sell it to hard bitten news editor Nina (Russo) who realises that this graphic footage could be just the thing to put her ratings through the roof. With several big stories under his belt he is able to expand the business and begins to take more and more chances in order to get suitably graphic video and his matter of fact anal attitude to his work soon affects everything and everyone else in his life.
Gyllenhall is almost unrecognisable here having lost 20lbs for the role. Louis has definite sociopathic tendencies and he plays him in a very understated way with his Machiavellian sinisterness always just bubbling under the surface. There are shades of Anthony Perkins Norman Bates about him and the character is far from a likeable sort. What he sees as blunt ambition is actually an arrogant obnoxiousness. The supporting cast are all excellent also with Riz Ahmed especially doing a subtle but wonderful job as Louis downtrodden driver and colleague Rick. It is also great to see Russo back on screen after what seems like an age.
This is atmospheric from the off and the cinematography really gives the sense of claustrophobia and seediness that must surely accompany this job. Tension is built beautifully and just when you think there is nowhere else for the story to go they hit you with yet another whammy. This doesn’t rely on lots of CGI and effects but rather lets the characters tell the story and when we do see the accidents and murder scenes they are merely conduits to push the tale along rather than gratuitous shots.
While this has a gripping story and is highly engaging there is a slight problem in the fact that the protagonist Louis is extremely unlikeable. This makes you feel somewhat uncomfortable for engaging with the movie – almost as if you are enabling his sleazy actions. That aside this is a great example of independent cinema done well. If you like your thrillers dark and dingy and your leading men somewhat psychotic then you’ll love this but be warned it isn’t always an easy watch.