Review – Nightcrawler

There is an idea of Louis Bloom; some kind of abstraction. But there is no real Louis Bloom – only an entity, something illusory. And though he can hide his cold gaze… he is simply not there.

A remarkably assured debut from Gilroy featuring a tour de force performance by Gyllenhaal, the wickedly disturbing Nightcrawler will crawl under your skin and stay there

A remarkably assured debut from Gilroy featuring a tour de force performance by Gyllenhaal, the wickedly disturbing Nightcrawler will crawl under your skin and stay there

I’m sure American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman wouldn’t mind being paraphrased to describe someone whom he would no doubt approve of.

Louis is a go-getter in the truest sense of the word; a guy chasing his share of the American Dream who also happens to be a sociopath and a monster made flesh by our insatiable appetite for blood-soaked true crime.

Screenwriter Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut turns over the bright and shiny rock of TV news to reveal the desperate putrescence beneath. It may not be particularly earth-shattering to lay bare the grisly cynicism that constitutes the US media machine – Sidney Lumet’s peerless Network did that almost 40 years ago – but Nightcrawler succeeds by wallowing in the muck with the leeches who feed the ‘if if bleeds, it leads’ TV news culture, in particular new kid of the block Lou (Jake Gyllenhaal).

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) goes for his major scoop in Nightcrawler

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) goes for his major scoop in Nightcrawler

When we first encounter Lou, he’s being caught stealing metal fencing by a security guard, whom he beats up. Even at this early juncture, it’s plainly obvious that something isn’t right with the guy and our unease is heightened further when he attempts to fence the fencing to a scrap yard owner and angles for a job at the same time; all the while quoting self-help book rhetoric and fixing the person in front of him with a rictus grin his saucer eyes fail to match.

It’s an affectation we discover he puts on for everyone and when he stumbles across Joe Loder’s (Bill Paxton) freelance film crew shooting footage of a car crash in order to sell it to the Los Angeles news networks, the missing link falls into place for Lou, who buys a camera and dives headlong into the venal world of ‘nightcrawling’.

The city of nightmares... Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) and cable TV news director Nina (Rene Russo) in Nightcrawler

The city of nightmares… Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) and cable TV news director Nina (Rene Russo) in Nightcrawler

With the assistance of intern Rick (Riz Ahmed), a down-and-out looking for a break, who goes along for the ride for a measly few dollars despite knowing his employer is a few slices short of a loaf, he hurtles around the city and sells on his grisly footage to vampire shift news director Nina (Rene Russo) with a self-assured expectation rarely seen since The King Of Comedy’s Rupert Pupkin that he will become a major TV news player.

Bravely, Gilroy eschews backstory for his unhinged protagonist and hands it over to the audience to mull over how Lou arrives where he does. He comes across as almost as blank a slate as Scarlett Johansson’s extraterrestrial visitor from Under The Skin and certainly has the same singular drive, while his mesmeric bug-eyed stare (made more striking by Gyllenhaal’s weight loss for the part) brings to mind the description of many a little green man.

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) shows 'intern' Rick (Riz Ahmed) the ropes in Nightcrawler

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) shows ‘intern’ Rick (Riz Ahmed) the ropes in Nightcrawler

It’s great to see Russo back on the big screen in a part deserving of her talents and it’s fascinating watching her character reduce from alpha dominance (her description of TV news as “a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut” being a case in point) to Lou’s lap dog as she relies more heavily on his macabre footage and falls under his spell.

Likewise, Ahmed in his breakout US role following a series of very strong roles in such British fare as Chris Morris’ Four Lions, is the only emphathetic character on screen (save for Kevin Rahm’s aghast news editor) and becomes trapped by Lou, who cruelly dangles the prospect of a pay raise based on a non-existent “performance review”.

The man who wasn't there... bug eyed Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) in Nightcrawler

The man who wasn’t there… bug-eyed Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) in Nightcrawler

Needless to say, though, this is Gyllenhaal’s movie and he really goes for it, giving a career best turn in the process. Gyllenhaal has generally been at his best when playing misfits or obsessive types in such films as Donnie Darko (2001), Zodiac (2007) and last year’s Prisoners and amps it up here to a previously untapped level. Lou is a truly unrepentant figure and is as mesmerising as he is appalling.

Less successful is James Newton Howard’s fist-pumping score, which is presumably meant as the soundtrack that Lou has swirling around his head as he goes about his nightly activities (akin to Taxi Driver); however, it doesn’t really come off and ends up becoming distracting. A gripe, albeit a small one.

A remarkably assured debut from Gilroy featuring a tour de force performance by Gyllenhaal, the wickedly disturbing Nightcrawler will crawl under your skin and stay there.

Review – Edge Of Tomorrow

Movies and video games have never made the easiest of bedfellows, so it’s ironic a film based on a book should inadvertently capture what makes great games tick.

As fun a ride as you're likely to have all summer, Edge Of Tomorrow is a film you'll want to watch it all over again

As fun a ride as you’re likely to have all summer, Edge Of Tomorrow is a film you’ll want to watch it all over again

Although Edge Of Tomorrow inevitably attracts comparisons to Groundhog Day in its time loop structure, Major William Cage’s (Tom Cruise) seemingly endless replays and slow, obsessive battle to defeat the bad guys brings to mind the likes of Halo and other highly intensive action games.

In fact it wouldn’t have looked out of place for the words ‘Game Over’ to appear each time Cage dies before respawning at the same point, while its tagline ‘Live. Die. Repeat.’ will be familiar to millions of gamers trying to progress through their latest game.

Major William Cage's (Tom Cruise) day is about to turn very bad in Edge Of Tomorrow

Major William Cage’s (Tom Cruise) day is about to turn very bad in Edge Of Tomorrow

Setting aside his odd personal beliefs, you have to hand it to Cruise for having managed to remain at the top of the tree for more than 30 years. He’s also done it on his own terms and has often been prepared to use that winning smile he became famous for early in his career to subversive effect.

Here, the smile is used to sell the allied war effort against an invading alien race known as Mimics who have conquered most of  Europe. In spite of his senior rank, PR guru Cage has seen no combat, choosing instead to fight the war in front of the TV cameras as the face of the United Defence Forces (UDF).

Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) and Special Forces soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) consider their next move in Edge Of Tomorrow

Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) and Special Forces soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) consider their next move in Edge Of Tomorrow

So when UDF commander General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) informs the cowardly Cage that he’s being embedded on the frontlines for Operation Downfall, the UDF’s all-or-nothing invasion of France (it can’t be a coincidence the film has been released in the US on the 70th anniversary of D-Day), Cage unsuccessfully attempts to worm his way out of it.

Deployed in the first wave, Cage is killed within a few minutes, only to suddenly awaken back at the barracks, where the invasion begins all over again. With the help of super soldier and UDF poster girl Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), who appears to be the only one who understands what is happening to Cage, they set about trying to defeat the enemy, one death and one time loop at a time.

Super soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) does the business in Edge Of Tomorrow

Super soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) does the business in Edge Of Tomorrow

Director Doug Liman is now best regarded as an action director, although he made a name for himself with the indie classic Swingers (1996). His form in the genre has been patchy; on the plus side he gave us The Bourne Identity (2002), but this was followed by the smug Mr And Mrs Smith (2005) and the tedious Jumper (2008).

The scales have been balanced with this rousing romp (based on the novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka) that zips along at a dizzying pace and doesn’t get lost in its time-space continuum. Cruise plays a genuinely slimy and unlikable character who is forced to become a better man by the fortitude and bravery shown by Vrataski.

Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) finds himself on the frontline in Edge Of Tomorrow

Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) finds himself on the frontline in Edge Of Tomorrow

Blunt, who must have a thing for time travel movies after staring in Rian Johnson’s Looper (2012), is a breath of fresh air. It’s a role that demands a strong performance and Blunt delivers it with consummate ease; she’s more than Cruise’s equal on screen and flexes both her acting and physical chops.

The film’s kinetic editing style effectively emphasises the sheer number of times Cage must undergo the same events in order to progress that little bit further each time and the psychological impact it must have is etched on Cruise’s increasingly tortured face.

Sci-fi movies steal from each other all the time and Liman is happy to maintain this tradition. The exoskeleton used in the film is lifted from Aliens and last year’s Elysium, while the influence of militaristic sci-fi flicks such as Starship Troopers is palpable.

As fun a ride as you’re likely to have all summer, Edge Of Tomorrow is a film you’ll want to watch it all over again.