Just how important is it to know everything about a gory news story? How much do we want to know about the process that gets that information? And just how far would we go in the same circumstances?
Long time scriptwriter and first time director Dan Gilroy has exploded onto the Hollywood scene with his astonishing take on the media’s hunger for the most intimate details and the need to generate social discussion. His dark and disturbing LA thriller takes us on a morally uncomfortable but slickly presented wild ride, challenges us to keep up while also introducing one of the greatest of modern villains.
In a performance ignored by the Academy (shame on you!) but to be celebrated in the decades to follow, Jake Gyllenhaal plays Leo Bloom, a social outcast struggling to get a foot on the employment ladder. Stealing wire from a construction site before attacking the inquisitive security guard to escape, it’s clear that Bloom’s ethics are dubious. Trying to sell the wire to another construction site, Bloom’s ambition is thwarted by a superior logic and he has to settle for a value far below his expectation. His persistence, and negotiating skills, whilst raw, are clearly in evidence.
Driving away, he notices a car crash and how the drama of a woman heroically being pulled from a burning car is captured by freelance cameramen. Despite being rudely dismissed by the two-man crew, Bloom sees the opportunity the industry provides and decides to grab it, or rather film it, with both hands. His negotiating and planning skills now stronger, he is able to get a camera, radio scanner and even a young desperate assistant Rick Carey (Riz Ahmed). Despite early setbacks, the two are able to work together and capture some news-worthy footage. When trying to sell the images on to the local TV station, Bloom meets the equally ruthless morning news director Nina Romina (an impressive Rene Russo). Romina’s philosophy is embodied by the “If it bleeds, it leads” and “I don’t care if it’s moral, I care if its legal”.
Nominated for Best Original Screenplay (and nothing else, tut tut) at the upcoming Oscars, this is a story that has the flair, adrenalin and thought-provoking drama that makes it a certainty to be a cult classic. Gyllenhaal’s performance is a highlight in an already impressive career, capturing the chilling, callous and perversely charming Bloom that challenges you not to admire him even as he makes your blood run cold. Nowhere is this more evident than in arguably the film’s most fascinating scene: keen to seduce Romano and improve his professional standing, Bloom outlines his reasons, foreseeing every argument the executive could come up to prevent it. Set in a quiet, low-key restaurant, it has more of a feel of a high stakes poker game and marks a noticeable power shift in their relationship.
With the same producers as 2011’s Drive, Gilroy’s film has parallels, giving us a tour of a different side of LA, led by a loner with the skills needed to survive in a ruthless and dangerous industry. Unlike Drive’s unnamed stunt and getaway driver (Ryan Gosling), Bloom is more shrewd and ambitious more than mysterious and brooding, helped by Gyllenhaal’s stunning performance that helps bring out the comedy in the film. Bloom’s repeating of business rules when discussing the work environment with Carey are particular highlights. But Gyllenhaal’s layered portrayal never lets us forget the moral emptiness beneath the outer surfaces. None more so than when he tells Carey: “What if my problem wasn’t that I don’t understand people, but that I don’t like them?”
This year’s Oscars may be largely dominated by true stories of inspiring, intense or provocative figures, but there should always be space for an imaginative and original film. As the local network in the film shows, sometimes the audience doesn’t know itself what it really wants.
A great review and an even greater film. It’s not for everyone, though, and that might be it’s problem. There’s really no one character to cheer for and it’s in no sense a feel good film. But the story and acting are phenomenal!
You wouldn’t think the Academy would need that. Not finding space for The Dark Knight in Best Picture is still their worst decision yet mind.
Great read Alex, this ended up high up on my list of favorites from last year. Gyllenhaal was certainly robbed by the Academy.
It’s not the first time the Academy has made a mess of things. I even did two quizzes on films not even nominated. Some shocking ommissions! Hoop Dreams got a pretty raw deal too.
Firstly, great review! 🙂 Secondly, I watched this film a few weeks back and it blew me away. I thought he played the character beautifully, but the story-line for me is what swung it. It just stood out from the other ‘less memorable’ films I have seen lately!
You saw it before I did! I’ve always liked Gyllenhaal (even going back to October Sky) but this was just an incredible performance. Glad you enjoyed it.
I also enjoy Gyllenhaal. Have had this one on my To Watch list for ages but amandlyle, between you and Alex, I think you’ve convinced me to move it up to the top.
That’s great. I cant recommend it enough. Superlative film.
Excellent review, definitely on my list of films to see.
As long as it doesn’t stop you from writing your excellent Bond reviews 😉
Don’t worry it won’t, more Bond reviews will be arriving soon, just been a bit busy lately.
I LOVED this film and I still cannot believe that Gyllenhaal missed out on an Oscar nomination.
My teeth are still grinding haha
Great review Alex!
Thanks Natasha 🙂
I reaaaally wanna see this movie. I love Jake! And I love the way you write reviews! 🙂 xx
Thanks Naomi. That really means a lot.
Don’t know if I could see it but I loved your review and it makes me want to see it. 🙂
I really hope you get to see it 🙂
I’m kind of a weanie but when it comes to Comcast, I will probably watch it. 🙂
Great review alexraphael ❤
Thanks Leyla 🙂
Really great write-up, Alex. What an amazing film and a big shame regarding the big snub!
Thanks Anna. Let’s hope it at least wins Best Screenplay.
I really want to see this – great review Alex. I rate Jake Gyllenhaal and it sounds like this really is his movie.
Thanks Cathy. He really was fab in this. Even physically. His stares are so intense.
Great review! I didn’t realize these were the same produces that did Drive. That makes a lot of sense.
Thanks 🙂 I’m surprised the producers didn’t mention it more.
Great review! Yes, shame on the Academy for overlooking this one, esp in the acting front. I like what you said here: “This year’s Oscars may be largely dominated by true stories of inspiring, intense or provocative figures, but there should always be space for an imaginative and original film.” Yes indeed! That’s why I was Team Birdman all the way, and I do think this one deserved to be one of the Best Picture nominees. I also think Renee Russo deserves a nod instead of Meryl Streep!
Meryl being nominated is one of the rules ha. The funny thing is that for me Birdman’s acting was the most amazing thing about it. I’ve seen a lot of Norton films but his performance still blew me away. And Keaton was as good as I’ve ever seen him. Emma Stone can’t do any wrong either.
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Great review I want to see it now 😊
I hope you get to 🙂
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Good stuff, Alex!! You definitely liked this a lot more than me! Great post!
Thanks dude. Means a lot.
Very well written post, with excellent observations throughout!
Not sure how I missed this, sorry. Thanks for your lovely comment. Hope you had a fun weekend.
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Great review, Alex! I completely agree. 🙂 Nightcrawler is a thoroughly fascinating character study, which deserves so much more at the Oscars. Dan Gilroy’s layered storytelling alone is enough to make this a classic. Of course, Jake Gyllenhaal is one of the most talented working actors today too. Absolutely phenomenal. Sadly, it’s been a while since Gilroy last directed. I’m still keeping a lookout for his next film!
It’s so frustrating when films like this don’t get more acclaim. I was so excited before it came out, and it was even better.
Alex, you have a real talent for writing reviews. I want to see the film now based on your recommendation. Also, while reading your insightful comments about the film, this song came to mind