Dan Gilroy’s directional debut gives us the dark, seedy thriller we’ve all been craving for, just in time for Halloween.
Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Louis, an ambitious young man who discovers the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles crime journalism. Louis becomes immersed in the voyeuristic world of ‘nightcrawling’ – a phenomenon where freelance camera crews race to be the first at the scene of crime and trauma in order to sell the footage to the highest bidder.
While the opening establishing shots of a group of dead-end students feels insignificant, as does the rather clichéd montage of Louis getting his big break, the murky characters do not fail to take centre stage and demand your attention. The film shows us the gritty underbelly of journalism, where sadness and horror reign: ‘Hit it again’ says Nina (Rene Russo), head of the news department when Louis has gone into a mansion filming the recently shot bodies of a family close up, needing to make the audience afraid, wanting more. Yet no-one in the business seems to be happy from their deeds.
We see Gyllenhaal’s determined anti-hero rising through the journalistic hierarchy at his own steady pace. When other camera-crews argue, he is calm. When others back away as the police say so, he creeps on. Yet his desire to be the best in this amoral world leads him down a path of inevitable self destruction. One thing I personally picked up on was Louis’ eyes, those glistening, hopeful, terrified eyes. We know so little about Louis: he is a great public speaker, he is a great thief. So why does he want to be a reporter, and why now, when his golden years are long gone? Louis never appears to grow even as the final credits roll, but those eyes show us so much more than anybody could ever say.
As Louis got darker in his ambitions, people were laughing in the cinema. His assistant’s life in jeopardy and Louis’ calmness? Laughs. Nina being blackmailed, noting that ‘friends don’t pressure friends to sleep with each other?’, and Louis replying ‘yes they do’? Hysterics. There may be some black comedy here but I didn’t laugh.
Nightcrawler is a dark, quick-paced film. It leaves you depressed at the bleak system we’re in, and yet we still want more. More from Gilroy please.
Reviewed by Robert Bone at Duke of Yorks at Komedia