Every good actor will have that role that they will ultimately be remembered and defined by. Pacino has Scarface, De Niro has Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, Nicholson has J.J Gittes in Chinatown. Jake Gyllenhaal is far from the talent or career of these actors but he demonstrates that he could be in Nightcrawler and also gives the performance that could ultimately define and shape his career.
The best characters are the ones that are hard to label or define. Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom is exactly that, a keen, passionate, intense and desperate character who believes they are destined for something greater and has the logic, intelligence and skills to do so. It’s through this that he becomes a successful Nightcrawler, a freelance cameraman who stalks the police scanner and attempts to get the goriest footage of crimes and accidents in California.
The film simply tracks his obsession but the character is never less than engrossing. Gyllenhaal’s Bloom is not a character you will ever side with and certainly won’t win the audience over, but he will keep your interest and it’s his slow decent into obsession that maintains the film’s momentum.
The story does become extreme but never unbelievable. You accept the actions of Bloom because he is becoming more desperate to fulfil the career path that he has set for himself. Its his brushes with success and failure that demonstrate the obsessive and in more than one case, the scary side of Gyllenhaal’s brilliant character.
It’s not just his performance though and he is ably supported. Rene Russo feels the brunt of the professional side of Gyllenhaal and the relationship between the two, that switches dynamic and power, changes rapidly as Bloom’s obsession as a Nightcrawler intensifies. Riz Ahmed is Bloom’s Intern and the closest person to a normal character in the movie. His naivety and weakness are played on by Bloom well and also gives Gyllenhaal another person to interact with, especially with lightening speed dialogue and dodgy, manipulative logic.
Regardless of the great supporting cast, this is all about Gyllenhaal and he carries the movie with ease. This will be the performance that he is remembered for or at least the performance that begins a career where he is taking on more unusual or deeper roles. It’s also clear that he can handle these roles ably and has a side he hasn’t shown since Donnie Darko.
Overall, Nightcrawler is an interesting look at obsession, greed and a glimpse into a profession that many people probably didn’t realise existed. It’s also Gyllenhaal’s best performance and one that will stay with people long after the credits have rolled.
Rating – 4.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)