It’s Jake Gyllenhaal‘s birthday! To mark the occasion, here are five films from my favorite actor working today.
Source Code (2011)
Source Code takes the classic Groundhog Day concept and gives it a sci-fi/thriller spin as Gyllenhaal plays confused protagonist Colter Stevens as he seeks to unravel the mystery of a train-bombing while also solving the mystery of his own unknown predicament. The set-pieces and reveals that director Duncan Jones are able to pull off through multiple 8-minute revisits to the same confined space of the train is outstanding and Gyllenhaal really makes it click.
End of Watch (2012)
The police drama End of Watch puts Gyllenhaal in a very different role as the film almost feels like a found footage of real cops in Los Angeles. The film has somewhat of an out-of-left-field ending that takes away form the realism, but Gyllenhaal and David Pena manage to keep the movie grounded. If you aren’t connected to the duo by the final act, you’ve really missed something. It’s refreshing to see a toned-down version of Gyllenhaal.
Spider-man: Far from Home (2019)
With Gyllenhaal’s more artistic bend, most of his fans thought it was unlikely he would ever join the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Then came the bombshell announcement that he had signed on as Mysterio for the Spider-man sequel. And thus Far From Home instantly shot up as one of my most anticipated MCU movies yet, and it didn’t disappoint. Gyllenhaal is stuck playing the straight man for half of the movie, which was necessary for the plot, but oh boy do I wish he had been full on Quintin beck from the start. Once he makes his turn in the bar scene, Gyllenhaal gives a masterclass performance that makes Mysterio one of the most interesting and formidable villains in the MCU canon.
There’s no role Jake Gyllenhaal plays better than a neurotic protagonist and he does so to great effect in the slow-burn serial killer drama Zodiac. Gyllenhaal plays real cartoonist Robert Graysmith as he becomes gradually more and more involved with the investigation into the Zodiac Killer. By the time we reach that iconic scene in the basement, the tension is unbearable. The movie does a great job of slowly ratcheting things up and doesn’t sugarcoat the ending: sometimes we don’t get a clear answer. Even alongside talents like Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo, Gyllenhaal steals the show and elevates the movie to higher heights.
With the spectacular catalogue of Jake Gyllenhaal, you could argue many movies to the be the best of his work. but for me, Nightcrawler takes the cake by far. Gyllenhaal’s performance of the sociopathic Lou Bloom as he ascends in the nightcrawling industry is gripping, funny and terrifying. You can’t pull your eyes away and Gyllenhaal completely disappears into the role. There have been many stories of a man’s descent into madness, but fewer stories of a madman’s ascent due to his madness. Nightcrawler’s application of that story to a sociopath videoing crime scenes in LA is a perfect fit. Plus, as a journalist who has covered many wrecks, fires and murders myself, not one of them goes by without the thought of Lou Bloom in my head.
What are some of your favorite films directed by birthday boy Jake Gyllenhaal?