DVD review: Nightcrawler is a Jake Gyllenhaal tour de force

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 April, 2015, 6:51pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 April, 2015, 6:51pm

Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton
Director: Dan Gilroy

There are obvious echoes of Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976) in Dan Gilroy's directorial debut. Jake Gyllenhaal, as a low-life thief with grand ambitions, peers into the Los Angeles night from behind the wheel of his car, as the city's various creatures patrol the streets, much in the same way Robert De Niro's Travis Bickle did. Both characters share similar delusions, too.

Most telling is the belief that they are detached from - even above - their surroundings, that they are better people than most as they set out on their mission to improve their stature in life.

But there the similarities end. Bickle turns twisted avenging angel, while Gyllenhaal's Louis Bloom is an amalgam of all the half-truths and self-centredness the internet age has foisted on us.

He's a loathsome creature, and Gyllenhaal turns those downward, brooding and soulful eyes we first encountered in the mixed-up youth of Donnie Darko (2001) out towards the world here. With Bloom's slicked-back hair and ghoulish pallor, the effect is that they seem to be probing into the very souls of the people he meets as much as they start to probe the streets of LA once he finds his calling and picks up a video camera.

Bloom puts people on edge, and his amoral actions scare at first, then seduce the newsroom to which he sells the footage he shoots, beginning with car crashes and fires, and moving on to a massacre.

Gilroy wants to lay bare the malaise of modern broadcast media, where ethics have long since been shown the door and the focus is on instant reaction - and ratings - with no thought given to consequences.

Nightcrawler makes you squirm and pause to wonder - if indeed such people truly exist - how society reached this point. But it is Gyllenhaal's performance you'll take with you. Bloom starts by shuffling about on the edges of society, and by its end, he is ready to take centre stage, showing the frightful truth behind Alexander Pope's axiom that "a little learning is a dangerous thing". Never more so than in a society whose moral compass is spinning out of control.

Extras: director's commentary, making-of featurette.