Dan Gilroy making the step from accomplished screenwriter (The Bourne Legacy) to impressive first time director, in the process creates a damning portrait of the modern day media. James Brook’s Broadcast News (1987), and Sidney Lumet’s/Paddy Chayefsky’s Network (1976) foreshadowed the future of television news, Gilroy’s film represents a modern day reality that surpasses any of the dire warnings from these earlier films and creates a world frighteningly real.
The film opens on images of empty streets, deserted amusement parks, buses sleeping in terminals, a Los Angeles reminiscent of Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 film Drive. In the dead of night Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), scavenges for fence wire to steal and sell, his speech recalls a warped version of a motivational speaker ,”Good things come to those who work their arses off," “Communication is the number one single key to success” or “a friend is a gift you give yourself”. These pithy one liners are filtered throughout the film. Physically Louis resembles a cross between a holocaust survivor and Dracula. All sunken pale cheeks, and bulging psychotic eyes. His new found career in filming crime scenes, suits the sociopath within him. “If it bleeds it leads," one of his competitors (Bill Paxton) informs him. Louis takes to this new career with a fervour, “TV news might be something I love that I’m good at,” he tells his producer Nina (Rene Russo). She sells the concept of her news program to the eager to learn Bloom, “Think of our newscast as a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut.” On his camcorder Bloom films the after effect of the carjacking crime-wave, savage dog attacks, home invasions and car crashes. Nina wants to see stories that scare her middle class white audiences, with the perpetrators being primarily minorities and the victims affluent white people.
Gilroy shoots with a steadicam for much of the film, it’s a gritty film shot primarily at night with a large unsympathetic central character. However Gyllenhaal in arguably the performance of his career, makes Bloom a compelling screen character. The performance has been compared to DeNiro’s work in Taxi Driver. He is a lonely guy, he spends his days and nights online taking internet courses and absorbing the diatribe of self help books. A product of his time, Gyllenhaal taps into the social isolation of the man who will do anything to film a great story.
Gilroys brother John edits the picture, and his other brother Tony helps produce. Literally a family affair with his wife Rene Russo perfectly cast as the desperate producer. Paul Thomas Anderson regular cinematographer Robert Elswit lights the film and James Newton Howard provides the evocative score. Riz Ahmed and Bill Paxton provide strong support.