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My 12 for ’14: Nightcrawler and Bleeding Leads…

With 2014 coming to a close, we’re counting down our top twelve films of the year. Check back daily for the latest featured film.

One of the most compelling criticisms of Nightcrawler is that the almost obligatory comparisons to Network are all too apt; that the film has not really bothered to update its social and political commentary for the twenty-first century. In many ways, this is true. The social satire at the heart of Nightcrawler is pretty familiar at this point. Lou Bloom is a young man who talks like a living and breathing self-help book, willing to do whatever is necessary to get ahead in life. It is just the latest in a long line of searing criticism of American capitalism.

After all, Nightcrawler would make a suitable companion piece to The Drop or Snowpiercer from this year; perhaps it make an interesting double-feature with Killing Them Softly from last year. The decision to focus this tale of exploitational capitalism on the media industry means that Network becomes the obvious point of comparison for Nightcrawler – just as 2001: A Space Odyssey inevitably comes up in discussions of Interstellar. If it feels like the satire has not really been updated, that is because that satire is still largely relevant.

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That said, Nightcrawler is just a stunningly well-produced film. Writer and director Dan Gilroy brings a delightfully kenetic energy to the movie. Cinematographer Robert Elswit helps to give the film a unique style by adopting a hybrid approach to filming the movie – the daylight scenes are shot on film, while the late-night sequences are shot on digital. This helps to create a clear sense of different between the Los Angeles seen during the day and nightmarish version present by Nightcrawler after dark.

However, Nightcrawler largely belongs to Jake Gyllenhaal, who provides one of the year’s most mesmorising lead performances as a young man willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead. Whatever it takes.

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Non-Review Review: Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler features a tour de force performance from Jake Gyllenhaal.

Gyllenhaal plays Louie (“call me Lou”) Bloom, a wandering and lost soul who stalks late-night Los Angeles in search of a lucrative pay-day. He is just trying to get his foot on the ladder any way that an entrepreneurial young gentleman can – he’s introduced stealing construction supplies and scrap metal so he can sell them on, seguing effortlessly into a well-rehearsed job pitch applying for an unpaid internship.

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Bloom seems like a man who has watched people from a distance for years, almost through a filter. Gyllenhaal injects a haunting eccentricity into the character, his wide eyes and practised stillness almost edging Bloom into the uncanny valley. Though he seems to always know just what to say, there’s something distinctly inhuman about Lou Bloom. He watches people, but from the outside. He has got a pretty passable impersonation of a human being down, but there’s just something missing.

Nightcrawler is a fascinating, harrow and occasional wry look at desperation and ruthlessness – and the heady cocktail they make when blended together.

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