In Films by James Hay - Cinema Editor

Jake Gyllenhaal is Lou Bloom, a down-on-his-luck nobody who’s looking for his calling and finding nothing. A chance encounter one night sucks him into the underworld of guerrilla journalism, which fuels his desire and aspiration, ultimately giving him more than he ever bargained for: he becomes a Nightcrawler.

Coldly comic and chilling, Gyllenhaal delivers a performance that’s very much of the moment and which, perhaps, no one else could have given. Quiet, pathologically contained and just seething with intensity, he is the rhythm and tone of the film; building your attention from the off towards a thrilling crescendo, reaching boiling point then bubbling over and exploding, finally settling into something far more sinister and subtle than just another movie monster.

Parallels could be drawn endlessly between Gyllenhaal’s turn here and other iconic movie madmen – Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates, Heath Ledger as the Joker, Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, De Niro as Travis Bickle – but really he deserves to stand alone and be judged on the merits of his own creation. A modern misanthropic solipsistic maniac!

Bloom is the 21st Century incarnate: lonely, isolated, confused, detached from reality, obsessed with delusions of his supposed right to success and emphatically saturated with and by the ‘media’. He’s a walking talking internet sound bite, learning by rote everything from self-help guides to consumer user manuals to the latest TV ratings. He’s “on his computer all day”, as he proudly boasts, and he means it. A whole new American Dream.

He’s scary in so many ways but most of all because he could be any one of us. Your neighbour, a colleague, someone’s partner perhaps. Is he a sociopath? A psychopath even? Almost certainly both, but that’s not what makes him terrifying. He’s terrifying because what he says makes sense and what he does feels doable. Well, most of it anyway.

The direction and characterisation are matched in their sense of reality and it’s that which makes for the truly compelling two hours of cinema that Dan Gilroy serves us here. Especially impressive as this marks Gilroy’s directorial debut.

Raising questions of where we are as a society, our increasing predilection towards voyeuristic exploitative entertainment, the misuse and misappropriation of power, wealth and success, the inherent manipulation of the media etc etc, but, ultimately, the question: what would you do if no one were there to stop you? Or, more, what could you do?

Lou Bloom’s answer: absolutely anything.

Edgy, dark and intelligent, Nightcrawler, like Bloom, will make you laugh, gasp and ultimately enjoy every minute of this magnetic thriller. An instant cult hit.