Brendan’s review published on Letterboxd:
This is one of the most intense and enthralling character pieces I have seen on film. The film has it's flaws, that's to be sure. Some have argued that the score is a let down and I personally feel that the side-characters, in particular Riz Ahmed's Rick, were a little under-drawn. The love and attention of this film is clearly and definitely focused on the character of Louis Bloom, portrayed through a phenomenal performance by Jake Gyllenhaal.
Louis Bloom is a scavenger. An outcast of society, a man who is clearly on at least one 'spectrum'. He is a weedy, hungry man who will do absolutely anything he needs to to get what he wants and has exactly zero empathy for anyone who gets mowed down in his path to success. He is written perfectly, every line of his dialogue absolutely flawless. Every single thing said by this character sheds light on who he actually is, no line is wasted. After all, I don't think Bloom himself would bother saying anything unless he expected to get something out of it.
Gyllenhaal brings Bloom to life in what has to be the most impressive performance of the year. Beyond his physical transformation into a gaunt figure with eyes bulging out of his head and a wide, shark-like grin, Gyllenhaal has emotionally and intellectually embodied this character. From his movements, the way he carries himself and the way he never blinks and the tone in which he speaks, every single facet of this character was thought through and brought to screen. The thing that stands out most though, in my mind, is how Gyllenhaal talks as Bloom. It is as if the character learned how to speak through YouTube videos which tell you how to talk to people to get your own way. From the tone, the inflections and the bullshit rhetoric he never stops spouting, every conversation is a power-play with Bloom and Gyllenhaal's performance makes every single one abso-fucking-lutely delightful.
While this is a fine film in it's own right with a tightly written screenplay, a beautiful aesthetic and a distinct neon-noir tone, it is truly Gyllenhaal's performance of Louis Bloom that escalates this film into something truly great. Truly one of the 'must-see' films of 2014.