Nightcrawler is the directorial debut of Dan Gilroy, and a successful one at that. The script, the cinematography, the score, and the fantastic performance by Jake Gyllenhaal kept me engaged from beginning to end. Similar to David Fincher’s recently released Gone Girl, Gilroy’s story involves the dark side of the media, except we’re seeing it all through the eyes of a determined sociopath. Nightcrawler takes the viewer on a twisted and darkly humorous ride through nighttime Los Angeles, where the city lights illuminate the gaunt, wide-eyed face of Gyllenhaal as he comes daringly close to the bloody and chaotic crime scenes on the city’s streets.
Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a man who makes his living stealing scrap metal and anything he can trade for a penny. He eagerly forces his way into the world of crime journalism after driving past a flaming car accident and meeting a freelance video journalist named Joe Loder (Bill Paxton), who’s unofficial motto is “if it bleeds, it leads.” Bloom listens as Loder bargains with his exclusive footage, selling it to the highest bidding news station. Bloom sees nightcrawling as a great opportunity and purchases a cheap video camera and police scanner.
He immediately starts out with an aggressive approach, getting right up in people’s faces despite any opposition, going places where no other cameraman dare go. He sells his graphic footage exclusively to the morally unethical TV producer, Nina (Rene Russo). He then proceeds to hire a homeless man named Rick (Riz Ahmed) as an assistant and convinces him that he is being offered a rare opportunity. Bloom’s determination and lack of ethics eventually leads him to become more than just a camera-toting observer, and because of this, he finds himself climbing the ladder of success really fast.
Nightcrawler is a character driven story and Jake Gyllenhaal’s role as Louis Bloom is a chilling and remorseless one. He’s a creepy and overly confident sociopath who talks fast and knows how to manipulate other people. Even worse, he knows how to get ahead at the expense of other people’s suffering. Gyllenhaal, one of the most talented and underrated actors working today gives one of his most impressive performances. He lost somewhere near 20 pounds for this role, his face looks skeletal and his eyes bulge right out of his head. He is the embodiment of creepy, and it’s perfect.
Bloom has obvious psychological issues that precede his journalistic endeavors, but in a way, he’s also very much a product of his environment. Sure, he has no problem right away getting up close to the nitty gritty without any respect for the person who is bleeding out in front of him, but it’s also the praise and demand from Nina for disturbing footage that encourages him to keep pushing the limit further and further. Similar to an owner and his dog, Bloom receives positive reinforcement from her every time he brings her bloody footage. He has learned that the bloodier it is, the more money he makes. The fact that he is completely devoid of emotion is what makes this scramble to be top dog so interesting. He never once questions if what he is doing is wrong, he doesn’t hesitate, and he simply doesn’t care about anything except his own success–in other words, there’s nothing stopping him. It’s interesting to see the crazy circumstances on which that success is built when it comes to someone as ambitious, limitless and immoral as Louis Bloom.
Besides Jake Gyllenhaal, another thing I loved about this movie was the fact that it didn’t take itself too seriously when it easily could’ve gone that route. It was surprisingly humorous throughout, especially because you’re watching this crazy delusional guy actually convince people that he’s the only sane one in the room. His interactions with other people are sometimes so awkward it’s both funny and uncomfortable to watch. His articulate and aggressive way of speaking to people actually ends up being persuasive even if what he is saying is complete bull, making him extremely manipulative with hardly an ounce of effort. You almost feel bad for laughing, knowing that there are actual people like Bloom out there in the world manipulating others, but seeing it on the screen with a man donning a big smirk and bug eyes, it’s hard to see it as anything but funny.
Dan Gilroy made quite an interesting film here, definitely a step up from penning screenplays like that of Real Steel and The Bourne Legacy. It’s very entertaining, going so far as to include a gripping car chase involving an awesome red Dodge Charger and creating enough suspense in Bloom’s encounters with big city crime to keep you on the edge of your seat. Jake Gyllenhall gives an awards-worthy performance as a sociopath who I am unlikely to forget any time soon. Robert Eslwit, the cinematographer, does a great job with this film as well, putting the viewer right into L.A. after dark, where the palm trees glisten in the night, and James Newton Howard fits the tone perfectly with an electric score. Nightcrawler is certainly worth a watch.