Good thrillers use true tales for stories.  Making for believable and enthralling experiences, those basing themselves on reality have endured.  Director Alfred Hitchcock used the era’s headlines to great effect, something ‘Nightcrawler’ shares.  Similar in style to Hitchcock’s best works, ‘Nightcrawler’s’ exploration of the human psyche’s darker aspects is timely and engaging.


Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a loner desperate to make his mark.  Drawn into the world of ‘nightcrawling’ where reporters chase police sirens in search for tragedies to cover, he swiftly decides to become a video journalist.  Teaming with veteran news-reporter Nina (Rene Russo), Bloom establishes his turf.  His moral fibre becomes torn when he creates deadly incidents for news stories, often with shocking consequences.


First-time director Dan Gilroy ensures ‘Nightcrawler’ becomes a blistering attack on journalistic values.  Questioning how far someone should go in the pursuit of ratings, Gilroy offers some uncomfortably true answers.  Effectively using atmosphere and noir-ish night-time photography in highlighting the character’s unsavoury viewpoints, he achieves in exposing their decrepit principles.  ‘Nightcrawler’ could be seen several ways with drama, humour and even horror in the mix.  In Gilroy’s hands these elements are startlingly inter-woven within a dark but always enthralling narrative.


A huge part of its success is the casting.  Gyllenhaal and Russo completely immerse themselves into their roles.  Whilst vastly different in social stature, both share traits making them a rather pathetic and dangerous team.  As their morality unfurls, they become drawn to each other.  This warped quasi-romance adds another layer of intrigue.  Although some scenes drag, the characters are never less than compelling and offer a damning indictment on the frayed ethics on which some journalists thrive.


An often savage assessment of today’s news-hungry world, ‘Nightcrawler’ is continually engrossing.  With a sadly all too real story, it shows how the bridge between psychosis and honourable values becomes blurred in the enduring quest for news.


Rating out of 10:  8

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

Some films are made by craftsmen while others are made by committee.  ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1’ falls into the latter.  Following from the previous instalment, ‘Catching Fire’, it is less captivating and more calculating.  Based on Suzanne Collins’ popular book series, the movie franchise has generally done it justice.  ‘Mockingjay – Part 1’ sees this goodwill stretched as the final chapter is extended to enable the further ringing of box office registers.


After her rescue from the Hunger Games tournament, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) becomes a hero.  A symbol of hope for her hometown of District 12, ruled over by evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland), Katniss is full of resolve.  One of her aims is to rescue Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), her games partner.  Helped by District 13’s President Coin (Julianne Moore), Katniss is determined to free her people from under the crushing weight of tyranny.


After ‘Catching Fire’s dynamic energy, much was expected for the follow-up.  Unfortunately ‘Mockingjay – Part 1’ takes the foot off the accelerator to deliver a somewhat plodding entry.  There isn’t anything inherently bad, just the story moves at a glacial pace.  This lessens the urgency our heroes face diluting much of its impact.  ‘Mockingjay – Part 1’ is akin to an amiable stroll rather than a furious race to a climax for which we have to wait for another film.


Francis Lawrence directs with a steady hand and utilises his actors well.  Jennifer Lawrence provides a solid performance even if her character is reduced to endless crying scenes.  Sutherland has the most fun as the waspish villain and adds colour to an otherwise drab movie.  The series’ themes still provide interest with the media manipulation to win wars fascinatingly conveyed.  The few action sequences enliven events and serve as an appetiser to a hopefully grand finale.


Sure to rake in big bucks, ‘Mockingjay – Part 1’ should achieve what it was created for.  Whether splitting the story into two is an artistic achievement is debatable.  Hopefully Part 2 will provide a satisfying climax even if the temptation to continue will always be too hard for Hollywood to resist.


Rating out of 10:  6