“What if my problem wasn’t that I don’t understand people but that I don’t like them? What if I was the kind of person who was obliged to hurt you?”

Lou Bloom, a hungry, sociopathic freelance crime cameraman played by the magnificent Jake Gyllenhaal is deeply unsettling. He’s a man on a mission; hell-bent on growing his ‘company’, he takes to the LA streets and hires a lowly intern (Riz Ahmed) to assist him in Lou’s endeavours to make as much money as possible by capturing horrific incidents. Yet as the film continues, Lou’s progression into insanity and lust for power showcases himself as the true horror…

This is Jake Gyllenhaal’s best performance of his career to date. With a mixture of Bale’s Bateman (American Psycho), Damon’s Ripley (The Talented Mr. Ripley)  and Robert De Niro’s Pupkin (The King of Comedy), Gyllenhaal is downright terrifying and virtually unrecognisable, playing his character with such menace that it’s easy to forget he’s acting. While Gyllenhaal faces stiff competition in this year’s Oscars race, he does more than enough to earn a nomination; whether the Academy recognise his performance is another matter entirely. Losing 13kg of weight for his role, Lou Bloom looks hungry both figuratively and literally; an unnerving presence on screen that imposes himself in every single shot. With the film focused on Gyllenhaal, it is easy to disregard the additionally stellar performances of Nightcrawler’s supporting cast; namely Riz Ahmed as Rick, whom Lou hires, and Rene Russo as Nina, a television news producer that befriends and inevitably gets out of her depth with Lou. Riz Ahmed is brilliantly hapless as Rick, where the final 30 minutes establishes himself as a sympathetic pushover that struggles to stand up for himself when Lou manipulates. Similarly, Rene Russo makes a welcome comeback as a hardened, occasionally-despicable character that bears many parallels with Lou (though at times this point is enforced rather too heavy-handedly).

Aesthetically, Nightcrawler is a beautiful film. With stunning scenery, dark, brooding cinematography and an impressive method of shooting each car chase from first-time director Dan Gilroy, the LA streets and landscape haven’t looked this impressive since Nicolas Winding-Refn’s Drive. And in terms of pacing, Nightcrawler ticks the boxes as it slowly descends from one act to an increasingly despicable other, crescendoing into a tense, fascinating, brilliantly-edited final 20 minutes that keep your eyes fixated on the screen. Nightcrawler is intense, disconcerting and progressively insane, but is not without its faults.

The main problem of Nightcrawler lies within the writing of Jake Gyllenhaal’s monstrosity of a character. It’s desperately difficult to conform to director Gilroy’s intentions and root for Gyllenhaal’s anti-hero when he does nothing to earn the audience’s sympathy. Without a backstory or reasoning behind the character’s actions, any empathy for him diminishes. Scenes early on in the film, such as when he’s disappointingly rejected a job, do nothing when the audience are aware beforehand of how evil a character Lou Bloom is by the film’s opening scene. Can we really support the character’s endeavours when he’s so detestable and unlikable? I found that a difficult concept to wrap my head around.

As a thriller, Nightcrawler works brilliantly. As a satire of media, it struggles; incredibly stubborn in the point it’s trying to make, Nightcrawler flounders due to the fact that the character epitomises everything wrong with the media’s lust for news is so inhumane, detracting from the film’s argument.

Yet despite Nightcrawler’s failures, it hardly burdens a fantastically-crafted story with a terrific performance from Gyllenhaal and a gripping finale that serves as one of the year’s best scenes. It may enforce its points a little too strongly, but the film is nevertheless an exciting, enjoyable flick that gives great momentum to both Gyllenhaal’s and its director, Dan Gilroy’s careers.

– Gus Edgar

7 Films to Watch This Month – November 2014

Interstellar – 7th November

Christopher Nolan’s latest, Interstellar is my most anticipated film of the year, and for good reason. Featuring a stellar (pun fully intended) cast with the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Nolan-regular Michael Caine, and accompanied by a Hans Zimmer score, Interstellar will look beautiful, sound incredible and, if Nolan’s films are anything to go by, will hopefully be overwhelmingly entertaining.

The Skeleton Twins – 7th November

The Skeleton Twins follows twins Maggie and Milo (Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader respectively) trying to mend their near non-existent relationship. The film has picked up great reviews thus far, destroying all fears of another forgettable, wishy-washy coming-of-age tale. It looks to be an emotional roller coaster with great central performances and plenty of heart.

The Imitation Game – 14th November

Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, a man tasked with breaking a seemingly-unbreakable Nazi code. It received great reviews, where Cumberbatch’s performance has been hailed as one of the best of the year. Looking to be heavy on the sentimentality and focusing on raw emotion, The Imitation Game will break hearts and captivate audiences.

Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 – 20th November

The YA series that redefined (or rather, began a rise to) its genre continues with an adaptation to its final and polarising Mockingjay. This installment is certainly the most difficult to capture on film; it’s a drastic shift in tone and mood from its predecessors, so it will certainly be interesting to see how audiences react; especially with the controversy surrounding the splitting of the third book into two separate films. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 has a myriad of accomplished actors: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Natalie Dormer, Donald Sutherland, Woodie Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci and Josh Hutcherson, to name a few. A film with so many fantastic actors and such a wide fanbase will surely dominate the box office this month.

What We Do In The Shadows – 21st November

What We Do In The Shadows is a New Zealand comedy that follows three vampire flatmates in a hilarious documentary style way. It’s picked up great reviews from New Zealand where it was released much earlier; calling the flick hilarious, crazy, and very inventive. While horror-comedies aren’t exactly new, WWDITS looks to be the funniest of the lot. The fact that it stars both Jermaine Clement and Rhys Darby of ‘Flight of the Conchords’ fame is certainly promising and backs this notion up. If you’re still not convinced, check out the first 6 minutes of the film here.

Horrible Bosses 2 – 28th November

While the first installment was nothing to write home about, Horrible Bosses 2 has managed to inexplicably pick up two new A-listers in Chris Pine and Christoph Waltz to join the original gang of Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis (as well as Jennifer Anniston and Kevin Spacey). Both the cast and the trailer point to a rarity of the second installment being better than the first; if Horrible Bosses 2 can meet expectations, then the flick will be great fun to watch.

Paddington – 28th November

Paddington looks to be a decent, harmless family-film, heavy on the nostalgia. Paddington tells the tale of a bear that visits and traverses London from its more wild habitat, bringing both stress and joy to a family in need of it. It features a great British cast, with the likes of Hugh Bonneville, Peter Capaldi, Nicole Kidman, Sally Hawkins, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, and the underrated Ben Whishaw helming the role of Paddington himself. While perhaps entertaining only for a certain, younger target audience, Paddington may just be one of they year’s best non-(fully)animated family films.