WHEN the TV glows to life each morning in millions of households across Los Angeles, viewers are treated to their dose of breakfast news.
Bleak stories of tragedy that unfolded through the night are often prefaced with that ominous statement: viewer discretion is advised.
It is advice that one could just as easily tack onto Nightcrawler – a jet-black comic character study that combs the dark underbelly of the American dream.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, an aspiring freelance video journalist who stalks the city at night armed with a police scanner and camcorder, eager to capture visceral footage of car crashes, shootings, and other violent crimes that he can then sell on to the news networks in time for breakfast.
A Faustian pact made with Nina, a struggling news director (Rene Russo) gives the emotionally vapid Bloom a sense of purpose, and his sociopathy quickly becomes his greatest asset in the quest for prosperity.
It is no exaggeration to say that the efficacy of Nightcrawler rests almost completely on the back of Gyllenhaal’s performance – to date, it is his most entrancing role and in all likeliehood will see him nominated for an Oscar next year.
Thin and drawn, Gyllenhaal has created an antihero that will haunt you long after you leave the screen.
With a dogged determination and a scalpel-like focus, Bloom obsessively manipulates his way up the rungs with no regard to those he steps on along the way.
Every character in Nightcrawler is desperate for success, consumed with a vampiric lust that renders them unable to consider whether the object of their desire is authentic.
A none-too-subtle swipe is aimed at the industry and audience that perpetuates the kind of news that dominates so many channels – Russo’s character wants stories of affluent caucasians attacked by minorities; she wants the stories where the middle-classes feel threatened in their own homes.
What may be surprising to hear is that despite the thematic gravity of Nightcrawler, it is an incredibly funny film.
Gyllenhaal’s ghoulish tenacity to succeed at all odds leads to some outlandish and darkly comic moments, especially in his competition with a more established rival (Bill Paxton).
While the absurdity of the situation is humorous, the reality of it is terrifying, and it is this blend of simultaneous disparate feelings that gives the film its incredibly unique mood – Nightcrawler is a superb and chilling movie that will make you want to reach out and squeeze the hand of someone you care about, and may irredeemably alter your morning ritual.