David Jenkins’s review published on Letterboxd:
Driven home by a stellar performance from Jake Gyllenhaal, ‘Nightcrawler’ is one of the best films of the year. Set in the bustling night life of LA the film centres on freelance crime journalists known as stringers (or nightcrawlers). They drive around the streets at night looking to catch the best footage to sell for the morning news. There is a sense of competition between the rival stringers as they race to get to the scene first and catch the best footage. When the highly driven Lou Bloom stumbles upon one in action he sets his sights on a new career path and nothing will stand in his way of reaching the top.
Gyllenhaal has stated that he made the decision to become gaunt for this role in order for Lou Bloom to resemble a coyote. He wanted to appear as hungry as that particular nocturnal creature would if it was stalking the city streets at night. It pays off because Lou Bloom is every inch a sociopathic scavenger, stealing, manipulating and muscling his way towards the top. The complexities to his character are fascinating and Gyllenhaal puts in a career best performance. He commands the screen with a domineering presence and juggles the darkly comedic and terrifying sides of his character well. Hopefully this will get him some awards recognition in the future because for me this was one of the most electrifying and defining performances of the year. Gyllenhaal was Lou Bloom. Rene Russo meanwhile also delivers a strong performance as the editor of a struggling news channel who forms a dangerous partnership with Bloom. She conveys the desperation and ambition of the character well and Russo’s interplay with Gyllenhaal is often enthralling.
Whilst it is an imperfect film there was personally a lot for me to love in ‘Nightcrawler’ and it’s not just Gyllenhaal’s mesmerising performance that sets it apart. The pacing was spot on; the direction from Gilroy is slick and the dark humour was frequently on point. When the film upped the ante in its tenser moments it had me on the edge of my seat; whilst the quieter moments of character interactions were often fascinating. The rise of Lou Bloom is a thrill ride to watch because of the many different layers to his character. He represents in many ways some of the best and worst of humanity. His hunger and drive to succeed along with his confidence and ability to pick up new skills is something we all aspire to. Mixed in with his sociopathic tendencies however and this makes for a dangerous and volatile combination. He is a compelling anti-hero and one of the most electrifying characters in any film released this year. As he monologues about ambition it’s hard not to be spellbound and drawn into the dark and seedy world of Lou Bloom.