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Nightcrawler Review: disturbing and greasy L.A. thriller

Film: Nightcrawler – disturbing and greasy L.A. thriller

As a Journalism university student it could have been very easy to dismiss the intimacy and grotesqueness of Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut but, with an open mind, Nightcrawler features one of the best lead performances of the year and really makes you question how relentless journalists grab the headlines.

For a freshman director but experienced writer, Dan Gilroy transcends from behind the typewriter to hand on the camera with the utmost ease. Los Angeles looks hauntingly beautiful at night as it bathes and rolls in the seedy neon lights. His shots linger on locations and add another layer to the soundtrack, which absent of visuals, could have been ordinary.

But where Gilroy excels most is not in directing the landscape but his actors in refined close quarters. Los Angeles is his amphitheater whilst Gyllenhaal, Russo and Ahmed are musicians to his composer. He directs the camera to linger and hold close on their faces as they flit from emotion to emotion as frame goes from frame to frame. He slows down the tempo to incite real tension and anxiety but can very well frantically shift his hand in compelling movements to keep us hooked and energised. Gilroy, therefore, has set himself a high bar indeed.

There is no question that Gyllenhaal is at the peak of his powers right now. At one point, I thought his Lou Bloom character would devolve even further until he arrived in Gotham City, put on a purple suit, some white make up and tried to kill the Batman. Playing a psychopath can be overdone or just flat-out not done, Gyllenhaal genuinely feels like a scrawny humanoid who’s only interactions come by the way of a keyboard. But what makes him truly scary is how much truth he speaks under his artificial smile and snigger.

This film will be remembered for Gyllenhaal’s performance but what must not be overlooked is just how well Riz Ahmed held himself in what could have been a throw away role, how Rene Russo has delivered once again and how telling and truthful it is that the bad guy got away with it. Dan Gilroy chose the perfect industry, Journalism, to show how harsh the world can really be.

Score – A-

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