The 40-year-old Jake Gyllenhaal has an impressive career behind him. If he were to quit acting tomorrow (which I hope he doesn’t), the audience would still have a rich body of work to look at. It is difficult to choose a film from his repertoire where he shone best, but my top 3 list would definitely feature the 2014 release Nightcrawler. The protagonist is creepy, his personality and the things he does are sickening, but it is also engaging. You cannot, you dare not take your eyes away off Lou Bloom, whose only ambition is to do a job and be great at it.
While it is an admirable quality to have, the lengths Lou goes to achieve his goals will twist your stomach in ways you would not be able to anticipate. One of the primary reasons I ended up watching the whole movie in the first place is because of Gyllenhaal’s brilliant turn in the thriller. How do you root for a protagonist whose motives are so questionable, unless you have a smart, tight script with a great cast leading it — something Nightcrawler gets just right.
Lou Bloom is a young, conniving, ambitious, cold person who happens to hate everyone. He just doesn’t appear very ‘normal.’ He speaks very quickly, always seeks to establish professional connections, and most importantly, seems to lack an emotional, humane core. One day he sees a stringer do his job and is immediately attracted by it. For the uninitiated, a stringer (specifically, in the film) is someone who reports news and sells it to big news corporations for money, giving the said company a chance to telecast/publish the news piece first. You see, be it any field, the competition never stops. Everything is about money, how can you get the company more money so that it can pay some of it back to you. And Lou, perhaps more than anyone else, understands this, the basic working model of things. This is one of the main reasons why he adapts so fast on the job. From getting his partner killed, to risking himself for a bigger chunk of news pie, Lou is willing to do everything under the sun to get the job done. This makes him indispensable, but also cruel and mean-hearted.
One of the most unnerving sequences of Nightcrawler is when Lou takes a senior executive from a news company out on a date, and propositions her in the simplest of manner, never touching or making any attempt to hold her down. Merely threatening her with his ominous sounding words. He even gives the lady a chance to walk away, but she doesn’t as she needs ratings to survive in the organisation, and Lou knows this and played it to his advantage. In the scene, Jake doesn’t even raise his voice to produce an impact, because Lou the character is not a raging sociopath. He is still a sociopath, but more on the silent, firm side.
Hollywood Rewind: Moana | The Sound of Music | Benny and Joon | Crimson Peak | The Holiday | My Blueberry Nights | The Help | Mission Impossible | Chef | Revolutionary Road | I’m Not There | Donnie Brasco | Sicario | Edge of Tomorrow | Spy Kids | 1998’s Godzilla | The Others | Phone Booth | Wild | Scream | The Godfather Part II | One Fine Day | True Romance | Little Women | Face-off | Pulp Fiction | Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon | The Age of Innocence | Mean Girls | Die Hard | Never Been Kissed | Citizen Kane | Kill Bill Volume I | Terminator 2 Judgment Day | Titanic | Heat | Home Alone | Jerry Maguire | Brief Encounter | The Truman Show | The Deer Hunter | The Shining | Clueless | Ferris Bueller’s Day Off | Blue Velvet | Taxi Driver | The Lord of the Rings I | Zero Dark Thirty | The Godfather | Say Anything | Warm Bodies | Bright Star | Malcolm X | Stardust | Red Eye | Notting Hill | Fargo | The Virgin Suicides | The Breakfast Club | Enchanted | Walk the Line | Blood Diamond | Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban | Mortal Kombat | Bridges of Madison County | Edward Scissorhands | Breakfast at Tiffany’s | She’s Gotta Have It | Ever After | The Devil Wears Prada | The Matrix | Creed | Mulan | Ratatouille | Shutter Island | Her | Dead Poets Society | Sleepless in Seattle | Waitress | Pride and Prejudice | The Dark Knight | Before Sunset | School of Rock | About a Boy | A Few Good Men | 50/50 | Begin Again | Brooklyn | Drive | Chocolat | Batman Begins | 10 Things I Hate About You | The Departed | Freedom Writers | Pretty Woman | Dan in Real Life | Jurassic Park | Tangled | Meet Joe Black | Monster’s Ball | Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind | You’ve Got Mail | Half Nelson | Fight Club | Doubt | American Psycho | Julie and Julia | Forrest Gump | The Silence of the Lambs | Finding Neverland | Roman Holiday| American History X | Tropic Thunder | Before Sunrise | Scent of a Woman | Finding Forrester | Sixteen Candles
Now here is an interesting thing. In an interview with GQ, Jake Gyllenhaal stated that he was able to play Lou with such conviction despite his obviously abhorrent behaviour, only because he saw Lou as ‘an artiste.’ And to be fair, Jake’s right to an extent, because all Lou wanted was to film better. He worked hard to get a better camera, he took online courses, and never stopped lecturing his partner (played credibly by the always wonderful Riz Ahmed) on how to ace his profession. For a man who supposedly hated people the way he did, Lou had lots to say to them.
The film is also a commentary on how people perceive crime and what kind of television news goes on air. The people are fed what they want most of the time, which is basically a version of pulpy gossip columns with a generous dose of scandal and awe-inspiring crime on the side. Let’s put it this way, Nightcrawler is the unlikeliest thriller about the most unlikeliest person. If you want to witness some stellar acting in tune with a well-woven script (the movie we all want at the end, more or less), this should be right up your alley.
Helmed and penned by Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler is streaming on Netflix.