Nightcrawler ★★★★

Is Gyllenhaal still considered an underrated actor? With a solid track record of performances in Jarhead, Zodiac, Brothers, Prisoners, End of Watch, Enemy, and now Nightcrawler, I can’t see how. If this film isn’t his all-around strongest performance, it’s certainly his most transformative.

Nightcrawler is a pulpy noir tale that follows a creepy sociopath through the LA night as he nefariously plants a stake in the breaking-news industry. Gyllenhaal’s Louis Bloom is a man eager to hone in on his life’s goals, and - more importantly - is remorseless in developing strategies to achieve those goals. But, more than all of that, he’s a man completely without empathy or any acknowledgment of morals or ethics.

There are moments in Nightcrawler that feel like comedy - so absurd is Bloom and his motivations at times that to those of us with actual moral fibre, his actions come off as just douchebaggery or, at worst, being a huge asshole. But many more moments remind us that the reality is far more sinister, that the moments of comedy are actually entirely tragic.

A movie like this, with such a strong and compelling performance by a single character, demands to be considered with separation - with the actor’s performance prioritized and the film itself summarily footnoted. It’s difficult not to do that here, especially since Gyllenhaal’s character is our singular viewpoint throughout the entire experience and the film itself is a completely linear progression. But that progression is unpredictable, which makes the film thrilling - while it follows a familiar escalation over the course of three acts, unless you yourself are sociopathic, it’d be difficult to truly predict what Bloom’s next action will be.

On the technical side, Nightcrawler is a solid piece of filmmaking. The score is iffy at times, but the camerawork and attention to capturing LA after dark as well as some exhilarating action moments make for an immersive experience that will easily find its way under your skin.