We’ve all been glued to our nightly news programs as they show us horrific freeway pile-ups, burning homes, tearful eye-witness accounts and harrowing family tragedies. These images have become the norm, the expected, but it's rare that we question where they come from or who captures them.
In ‘Nightcrawler’, Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a petty criminal, sociopath on the lookout for a job. Any job. When he witnesses a camera crew pull up to a freeway incident and start filming as though it were a children’s birthday party, he’s intrigued and decides he too can be a member of the sometimes lucrative nightcrawler business. Learning what sells and what doesn’t, Lou quickly establishes a relationship with late night news director Nina (Rene Russo) and even hires himself an intern Rick (Riz Ahmed). Stopping at nothing to get the big story, the big bucks and the notoriety, without an ounce of compassion, Lou blurs some very dangerous lines, and he does it all while spouting business manual quotes and online course notes as if from the mouths of great philosophers.
Never have you been so engrossed by a film filled with such morally and ethically repugnant characters and their actions, all the while casting a very harsh light on our own society and its media appetites. Gyllenhaal portrays one of the creepiest characters since Hannibal Lecter, and he does it with the brilliance and calculated abandon we’ve come to expect from this talented actor.
First-time director Dan Gilroy (better known as the screenwriter of 'Real Steel' and 'The Bourne Legacy') has created quite the twisted tale perfectly set in the superficial and media hungry Los Angeles, coyly playing with tone, satire, cynicism and thrilling modern noir styles. He’s directed his cast to stunning, gritty performances. Gyllenhaal is completely lost within Bloom, even shedding the kilos to help appear scavenger-like, gaunt, sunken eyed, hungry yet strong and survivalist.
There are moments throughout the film that are hard to watch, and you walk away feeling dirty and uncomfortable within your own skin - but only because the film has achieved exactly what it wants. Just like the car crashes we tune in to each night, they’re hard to watch yet you can’t look away.