Having never seen the trailer and being only vaguely familar with the story line I didn’t exactly know what to expect from Nightcrawler, the latest from Dan Gilroy (who also wrote and directed other action films such as “The Bourne Legacy”). The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal as creepy, intense misanthrope Lou Bloom.
As the movie opens, we see Lou as an overly driven and eerily enthusiastic young man eager to find work he is passionate about. He starts off as a petty thief attempting to re-sell stolen goods to make ends meet. One night after being rejected by a potential employer Lou stumbles upon a crime scene on the highway. He gets out of his car, approaches a cameraman and bombards him with questions. He is met with the same annoyance and rejection as the audience can see he has probably become accustomed to. But we soon come to learn that Lou is never really affected by rejection. It just feeds his need to succeed.
Lou develops an obsessive interest in filming gruesome crime scenes and potentially selling the footage to news stations. One station in particular gives him a chance and this is where he develops a co-dependant relationship with the desperate-for-ratings and easily manipulated station director, Nina (played by Rene Russo). He also takes it upon himself to hire an “intern” and gives an extravagant (and exaggerated) name to his “news company”, which he insists be named on air whenever his footage is shown. He becomes ruthless and obsessed with recognition and, as a result, becomes a person who is absolutely impossible to like or even remotely sympathize with. Never once showing remorse for the victims he films without even a trace of respect and almost always grinning an unbearably spine chilling grin, Lou is your classic sociopath. And Jake Gyllenhaal plays the role scarily well.
Though I’ve read interviews where it has been claimed that the movie never meant to be a commentary on modern media and the fear mongering tactics so often used, if you’re a person who watches or reads the news on even just a semi-regular basis it’s hard not to make that connection. I found this movie hard to stomach if only for the fact that it mirrors the sometimes outrageous way heinous crimes, and the victims of said crimes, are treated with little dignity for the media’s self serving purpose of keeping us on our toes, terrified, ensuring that they will not lose our attention and, therefore, keeping their ratings high.
Intentional or not, Nightcrawler serves as a kind of social commentary on where we as human beings draw the line between what is right and wrong and just how far some people will go to have it all- money, ratings, recognition, power- even if it is at the expense of others.
This film is beautifully shot, well written and thought provoking. It’s dark and disturbing but also somehow funny. Definitely worth watching if you like to be taken on psychologically thrilling joyride.
Nightcrawler is out now.