Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton, Ann Cusack, Carolyn Gilroy, Kevin Rahm
Written by: Dan Gilroy
Directed by: Dan Gilroy
MPAA Rating: R for violence including graphic images, and for language
Running Time: 117
Date: 10/31/2014

Nightcrawler (2014)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

News Control

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The brother of filmmaker Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) and the son of playwright Frank D. Gilroy, screenwriter Dan Gilroy makes a dynamic directorial debut with Nightcrawler. He takes on the cutthroat world of television news, which is more concerned today with spectacle and ratings ("if it bleeds, it leads") than with actual information, in a way that's startling and not at all angry or preachy. It's a high-speed, nocturnal movie, preoccupied with cars and streets, lights and cameras.

A weird, but driven and determined outcast, Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), makes a living stealing and selling scrap metal. When he witnesses a "nightcrawler" (Bill Paxton), i.e. a freelance cameraman in search of news footage, in action, he decides that it's the life for him. Using knowledge gleaned from the internet and his salesman skills, he manages to sell some footage to a struggling Los Angeles TV news program run by Nina Romina (Rene Russo), who desperately needs it. As his business grows, he takes on an assistant, Rick (Riz Ahmed), and begins to realize that, rather than simply waiting for it, he can lend a slight assist in actually making the news happen.

Actor Gyllenhaal is a big reason for the movie's electrifying mood. Apparently losing weight for the role, he's gaunt and weird, but intense, like a hypodermic needle. His eyes stick out of his skull, gleaming like daggers, unwilling to retract until a point is made. It's uncertain just how a creature like this came to be, but it's fascinating watching him work. When he sees the fake cityscape backdrop behind the TV news anchors' desk, he remarks, "it seems so real on TV." But it's all showbiz.

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