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NIGHTCRAWLER

★★★★

A FILTHY, FIERY MASTERPIECE

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By Daniel Lammin
29th March 2015
Last year was a bumper one for exciting, challenging films, but none of them were quite like ‘Nightcrawler’. The directorial debut of screenwriter Dan Gilroy, the film garnered mountains of praise and yet caused mountains of discussion about its ethics. Circumstance meant that I missed seeing ‘Nightcrawler’ at the cinemas, but thanks to Madman, I’ve now been able to finally rectify this with their Blu-ray release. And the day after watching it, I still don’t quite know how to deal with what I’ve seen.

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a young man living in Los Angeles with no job but an unbreakable entrepreneurial spirit. One night, he stumbles upon a group of men called stringers, who drive around with cameras capturing accidents or violent crimes on film and selling the footage to news networks. Seeing an exciting opportunity, Lou grabs a camera, hires an assistant, Rich (Riz Ahmed) and begins a nocturnal life shooting the more violent and bloody footage he can to sell to news producer Nina Romina (Rene Russo). What hides behind Lou’s unshakable optimism though is something far more complex and potentially dangerous.

From the first frame, ‘Nightcrawler’ burst onto the screen with neon fury, launching you into a giddy and terrifying rollercoaster ride. All the elements are working at their best, beginning with Gilroy’s astounding screenplay, constructed with minute attention to detail and some of the finest dialogue we’ve heard in years. His directorial eye is just as keen, and he’s collaborating with the best with cinematographer Robert Elswit behind the camera.

'NIGHTCRAWLER' TRAILER

‘Nightcrawler’ is one of those rare films that draws the audience in with master manipulation, hypnotising us with Lou’s charms while slowly sliding us towards something far more sinister and terrible. You can literally feel your stomach twisting and turning as the tension builds, knowing that something terrible is coming. Gilroy’s narrative and its protagonist are utterly reprehensible, with sequences of people crossing all kinds of moral boundaries without consideration, but rather than playing it all out as a moral tale or making Lou a villain, it steps back and refuses to pass judgement, observing him with an almost documentary objectiveness. It’s a similar trick to the one Scorsese tried to pull in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, but here Gilroy achieves it with even more success. By the time it reaches its thunderous climax, you’ll find yourself pulled every direction, wanting to look away but feeling dirty for how intoxicating the film and its protagonist is.

For all its skill though, ‘Nightcrawler’ would never have worked had Lou been miscast. It’s a fiendishly difficult character, and in lesser hands could have brought the film to pieces. In the hands of Gyllenhaal though, Lou Bloom is spectacular. We’ve long known that Gyllenhaal was a talented actor, but this performance is an absolute revelation, an hilarious and terrifying creation that instantly places him comfortably next to Travis Bickle or Harry Powell or Heath Ledger’s Joker as one of the great anti-hero villains in screen history. His level of detail and commitment is horrifying and exhilarating. Russo is also terrific as Nina, the only character who seems to be able to match Lou’s charisma and naked fury, and Riz Ahmed is absolutely beautiful as Rich, the poor innocent pulled into Lou’s orbit. Your heart breaks for him every moment he’s on screen.

From the first frame, ‘Nightcrawler’ burst onto the screen with neon fury.

‘Nightcrawler’ is a dirty, uncomfortable, vile, reprehensible and ultimately extraordinary film, an instant American classic in every sense. Not only has Dan Gilroy established himself as a thrilling new voice in American cinema, but along with Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance has delivered a character for the ages. With so many remarkable films appearing in the last year, it’s a testament to how impressive a film ‘Nightcrawler’ is that it remains one of the most shocking and memorable.

PICTURE & SOUND
Madman’s Blu-ray presentation of ‘Nightcrawler’ is an absolute dream, featuring a gorgeous 1080p 2.35:1 transfer and a pumping DTS-HD MA 5.1 track. Elswit’s spectacular night photography is beautifully rendered in high definition, with almost cartoon-like popping colours and startling clarity and detail, down to the pours on Lou’s ghoul-like face. The audio is just as impressive, especially when James Newton Howard’s score kicks in or during the enormous climax. ‘Nightcrawler’ is a visceral experience, and the visuals and audio with this release ensure that it remains that way.

SPECIAL FEATURES
There’s a modest collection of extras on offer, chief of which is an audio commentary with Gilroy and two of his brothers, Tony Gilroy the producer and John Gilroy the editor. It’s a lively commentary full of anecdotes about the development of the film and its production. This makes up for the lack of making-of material, though we’ve actually been given a lot more than the U.S. release. There’s a series of interviews with Gyllenhaal, Russo and Gilroy, two short featurettes and a set of trailers. It’s a pity we don’t have more, but having the film in high definition is probably enough of a reason to check out this release.

FAST FACTS
RELEASE DATE: 01/04/2015
RUN TIME: 1h 57m
CAST: Jake Gyllenhaal
Rene Russo
Bill Paxton
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Dan Gilroy
PRODUCERS: Jennifer Fox
Tony Gilroy
Jake Gyllenhaal
David Lancaster
Michel Litvak
SCORE: James Newton Howard
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