Nightcrawler is a dark, unsettling look into the manipulation behind the news-media, and some of the slimy worms who help put it all together. Jake Gyllenhaal helps create one of the most memorable, creepy, vile characters I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. He’s honestly never been this good, and I don’t think there’s been a better performance that I’ve seen this year. His character Lou Bloom carries himself like an important business man; the slicked back hair, nice clothes, and always with a smile. However, behind his beady eyes he’s cold and calculating, using people as pawns to climb his way to the top. Manipulating, blackmailing, and even hospitalizing the competition, nothing is off the table for Lou Bloom. Nightcrawler is a fantastic directorial debut for writer-director Dan Gilroy, and a huge turning point for Jake Gylenhaal’s career.
The film opens showing Lou Bloom trying to make a buck by collecting train yard scrap (illegally, of course) and reselling it. When he is confronted by a security guard, he attacks him and steals his watch. This sets the stage perfectly for the type of man Lou is; despicable and morally ambiguous, he’ll do anything to reach a goal. Despite him doing his best trying to sell himself to land a real job, the honest construction foreman sees right through him, telling him he won’t employ a thief. Leaving there, he encounters a car crash that had just happened. Walking up to it, a van rolls up and an amateur camera crew jumps out, running over to the car to film the event to sell to the late-night news stations. Lou sees this as his next big opportunity, so he steals a bike, sells it at a pawn shop, and buys a camera. This is another example of a movie that’s better knowing very little about what happens, so I’ll stop there. Understandably though, things escalate from there, and get much more twisted and dark than I thought it’d go initially.
One of the best parts of Nightcrawler is the perfect way it handles that escalation. The movie has some of the best writing of the year as well, with a plot the ramps up the tension nonstop until the climax which literally made me gasp in shock. The pacing of the movie always keeps you pulled in, and it goes by so fast for that same reason. Of course, Gyllenhaal is also a factor in keeping you on the edge of your seat. His character Lou Bloom is such an unpredictable force of nature that you feel at any time, he could just snap and do something insane. Like he’s a man who is constantly on the verge of losing it, but maintains his mask of normalcy when interacting with people. One of those people is Rene Russo’s news director character ‘Nina’, who buys footage from Lou. What starts as a mutually beneficial working relationship for her slowly devolves into a malicious, crude power-play by Lou. Their dinner scene, and his attempt to blackmail her is one of the best scenes in the movie, as it juggles an incredibly dark sense of humor with the actual tension that this guy means business, and she better not stand in his way.
The other aspect that I most connected with was it’s depiction of the news media and the emotional manipulation that goes into it. I hinted that this and Gone Girl would make a great pair of movies to watch together, and I stand by that. They both tackle the media from two different angles; Gone Girl from the outside, and Nightcrawler from the seedy, dark underbelly of within. There’s one scene in particular later in the movie where the director and crew piece together live coverage, yelling into the mic’s at the news anchors to focus on and to repeat certain words of a gruesome triple-murder. The realization comes when you realize you’ve seen that coverage before, almost exactly how it was done in the movie. They thrive on creating an atmosphere of fear for their viewers, because that’s where the ratings are. This point is emphasized by the way the movie ends, which reminded me a bit of Wolf of Wall street or Goodfellas. Being a repugnant and vile person just might get you ahead in life after all!
So that’s about it for Nightcrawler, thanks for reading! I still need to write up WHIPLASH as well as BIG HERO 6 which I saw recently. I ought to see BIRDMAN this week sometime too, so stay tuned for all of those!