Christian Bale if you’re reading this (ha!)…that is how you play a psycho! Gyllenhaal as “Lou”, an aspiring TV news producer, is totally unhinged, lacks complete and utter social awareness or empathy, and is unnaturally disconnected from his fellow man. To put it mildly, he is one f*d up individual. He possesses all the attributes of a psychopath and quite honestly, makes the film.
Speaking of the film, it is brilliantly directed, extremely well shot and edited and commendably acted! In my opinion it is everything a film should be. I was engaged from start to finish. I was both intrigued and horrified my Gyllenhaal’s character. I was excited to see how far his character would go. It seemed there was no line he would not cross as he failed to possess any sort of moral compass. The storyline also alluded to his homicidal/abusive tendencies as well as originally introducing his character as a criminal. With Gyllenhaal featuring in almost every screen shot totalling to 57 minutes of air time, you could well argue it was a one man show. However, his own performance was greatly complimented by those of his fellow actors. Most notably, Riz Ahmed’s role as ‘Rick’, Gyllenhaal’s unwittingly naive assistant who is initially oblivious to ‘Lou’s’ shortcomings as a compassionate human being. As a completely dysfunctional being you question Gyllenhaal’s motives for seeking employment. You may even admire his initiative at teaching himself to become a TV news footage supplier, or a ‘night crawler’ as known in the film. However, whilst you could argue the job, which facilitates his integration into society, may have positive effects on his character by allowing him to build relationships and develop a sense of purpose, even attain success; I believe, in actual fact, it only further dehumanises him. Is this because he works for the “news”; an industry built on corruption, misrepresentation and scare mongering? Is that what the film is telling us? Perhaps…but we knew that already. I think however that it may also be giving us a disturbing insight into how we, as society, consume news. The Sun has a weekly readership of around 5.6 million. In comparison The Independent only draws in 309,000 readers weekly. The difference? How the news is portrayed, which was essentially the focus of the movie. How are viewers/readers drawn in? The answer: shock, gore, fear and outrage; all of which feature quite heavily in most issues of The Sun.
Another theme the film touches upon is that of control and blackmail. I found Gyllenhaal particularly terrifying in scene between himself and his employer ‘Nina’, a morning tv news director, whereby he demands a sexual relationship with her in return for his video footage. A follow up to this scene comes later in the film when ‘Lou’ frustratedly comments on Nina’s inability to take orders in the bedroom. However, Gyllenhaal is at his most horrific in the climactic ‘horror house arrest’ scene at the end of the film where (spoiler alert) his assistant meets his untimely demise at the hands of Gyllenhaal’s quest for better footage. As a viewer you knew ‘Rick’s’ days were coming to an end when he started questioning ‘Lou’s’ unethical and immoral behaviour but it was still shocking to see Gyllenhaal casually coordinate his death for his own personal gain.
To conclude (N.B. I’m not particularly fond of ending a piece of writing with ‘to conclude’, nonetheless a conclusion is in order). I cannot recommend this dramatic piece of cinematic genius highly enough. Gyllenhaal’s performance as an eerily creepy sociopath captivates from start to finish; add to that an interesting plot and an esteemed cast, and what you are left with is a dark but perhaps somewhat worryingly accurate representation of the extremes of news broadcasting.