Like a gory crime scene, you can’t look away from Nightcrawler.
“The story is urban crime, creeping into the suburbs.”- Nina, Nightcrawler
Writer- director Dan Gilroy creates a smart, scathing thriller featuring the seedy world of TV journalism. Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a young thief with higher aspirations. On his way home one night, he spots a crime scene. Videographers swarm the scene like flies. Officers and cameramen rebuff Louis when he inquires to know more about video news gathering. Undeterred, Louis uses a stolen bicycle to obtain a camera and a police scanner, and hits the streets. He starts an exclusive partnership with Nina (Rene Russo), the news director of the lowest rated news station in Los Angeles. As Louis’ footage becomes more and more enticing, his demands become greater. He compromises Nina, his “employee” (an unlucky drifter who works for $30 a night) and the law. Nightcrawler’s first shot shows Louis clipping a chain link fence in a restricted area. A cop stops him. Louis politely responds to the cop’s inquiries. The camera closes in on the cop’s watch. We see a long shot, an intentionally ambiguous altercation, and then Louis driving in his car, watch on wrist. It’s easy to forget Louis’ introduction as he humbly irons his shirts and has doors slammed in his face, but make no mistake: Louis gets what he wants. Louis is smart. Not just book smart and street smart- he knows how to play the game. He is the game. Nightcralwer picks on business; Louis’ textbook justifications of his actions show how messed up business really gets. Watch this movie before you go on a job interview. Gyllenhaal’s eyes pierce from grainy surveillance footage and long shots. His performance gives one the chills like the insect for which people in his profession are named. Jake Gyllenhaal was expected to land an Oscar nomination, though I understand why he didn’t. Louis spouts information he’s learned on the Internet like Rain Man. I suspect Louis was not supposed to come off like this; in one scene, Louis responds to his employee’s suggestion that he doesn’t understand people with, “what if I understand them, I just don’t like them?” Regardless, Gyllenhaal creates a character that’s creepy as hell and not totally unrelatable (initially), with a scavenger- like appearance that fits that of a person who films dead bodies for a living. Nightcrawler’s strongest suit comes from its screenplay, which was nominated for an Oscar. Nightcrawler provides sly commentary on the nature of whatever we all do for a living. The film reflects the viewer’s morality like an inverted mirror. Louis reacts completely neutrally regarding his blatantly unethical actions. Your reaction shows how much you care about people- or don’t.