There are times when an actor or actress hits a resonating career-high with a performance that ushers them into a pantheon of immortals. Jake Gyllenhaal just earned his space there with Nightcrawler in a film that may very well be the best of 2014.
I could be exaggerating of course, but no, no I am not. We sometimes sit down to watch a film, through which we slowly realise that we are watching something 'special'. Something unique that will stay with us. Watching it I knew that it would pull the Academy's attention to its orbit.
Famed screenwriter Blake Snyder wrote the book Save the cat in which he dissects (to a perfect fault) the ropes and sinuses of scriptwriting, highlighting the fact that in order to get the audience behind the protagonist of any film they make sure that he or she 'saves the cat' (any act involving the character doing something nice) as early as possible during the story in order to garner affection for the character. The exact OPPOSITE happens in Nightcrawler, don't expect me to spoil anything, but Dan Gilroy (writer and director. Yes, films which are written and directed by the same person are often AWESOME. True story) ensured that Louis Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is a man you either love or hate, or love hating, or hate loving...at first that is. A dark, disturbingly intelligent man whose only driving force is that he wants to excel... at whatever it is that he is doing. A person who is either so detached from humanity that he can see things clearer than the sun itself OR the polar opposite. A human being who has boiled down humanity to a nice cup of tea and drank it, realising that all we are is just a bag of flesh with its own switches, buttons and levers. Pull the right ones and you get what you want. A process through which he managed to enter deeper into what it is to be human. He eventually reveals what he thinks on the subject above (humanity) and, oh, it is marvellous...
Nightcrawler tells the story of Louis Bloom and his endeavour, of wanting to be something. A narrative that by the final third had me literally applauding at the extremely accurate portrayal of modern television. Social commentary films have rarely been so to-the-point as Nightcrawler is. Ten, hell, FIVE years ago and watching this film would have the viewer thinking "oh come on, who is actually like this, who DOES this", but today? Today, Nightcrawler hits the nail on the head so hard that it drives it through everything it touches. Steel, wood, flesh, bone. Without any qualms, the most powerful social commentary I witnessed on film in the last two decades.
Then there's the man himself, Louis Bloom. I thought that Hardy's performance in Locke was the best of the year but this... this is something else. Gyllenhaal has reached that age in his career and life in which he knows himself. He is aware of his capabilities in a way that only a man or woman dedicated to their art for years could ever achieve. That doughy-eyed, awkward teen from Darko? Yeah, gone. You see it on the lines of his face, his body language. He becomes Louis Bloom in a way that De Niro delivered Travis Bickle, and no that is NO stretch! It is a performance of that magnitude! I cannot say more, because he has to be witnessed, delivering the best performance of the year by a galactic mile. And speaking of galactic...
The contrast between Interstellar and Nightcrawler is disturbingly clear. I place both these films in the same sentence because I think they are, for me, the true contestants for film of the year. Hands down. One is a story of humanity in dire straits, in which love comes through even from galaxies far away. The other, a story down the street that could not be closer to home if it tried any harder in which human darkness is truly overwhelming and sickeningly accepted. Even lauded! One film celebrates the light in us while the other sings of the void and blackness that we can harbour.
Part-satire, spitting in the face of today's news broadcasting. Part-american dream, getting to the top by any means necessary only to... I will say no more. Nightcrawler is my film of the year and Jake Gyllenhaal just performed himself into cinema history with what is the single most riveting and brooding depiction of... enough.
The urban cinematography, subtle soundtrack and supporting cast complement this masterpiece but make no mistake. This is Gyllenhaal's magnum opus.
- Frixos Masouras 2014