Nightcrawler takes us on a journey into the seedy world of 'nightcrawlers', independent camera crews who scour the streets looking for mayhem and carnage, and the bloodier, the better. The completely amoral, but absolutely determined Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is adamant that he's going to 'make it big' somehow... Louis doesn't know how exactly just yet, when Louis fortuitously stumbles upon some 'stringers' ie amateur cameramen filming a random car accident when inspiration hits Louis like a thunderbolt from the skies. Louis has found his calling in life. Louis steals a bunch of stuff and pawns it off for a video recorder and a radio scanner so he can listen for accidents and try beat the help there ie the police, the ambulances and his competition. Due to his fearless approach to record dangerous and probably illegal situations, Louis finds that the news director of a local TV station Nina Romina (Rene Russo) is interested in purchasing his footage before anyone else. Nina also tells Louis to focus on finding brutal crimes in affluent neighborhoods.
When the TV station's ratings pick up significantly after some of Louis' illegally acquired footage goes on the air, Louis knows that he has Nina in his pocket and as casually as he'd order dinner, he lays out his demands. Louis wants Nina to have sex with him, and enjoy it, he wants more money and more exposure as a legitimate cameraman. It's a Faustian pact that Nina reluctantly accepts for the sake of her precarious career. However Nina quickly realizes how deranged Louis is and how much she's at his mercy. Despite being his boss, it simply doesn't matter anymore. The balance of power has shifted. Louis now holds the ratings which allows Nina to keep her job and Louis knows that "If it bleeds, it leads."
On the one hand, Nightcrawler is an indictment on the sensationalist and sordid practices of news stations choosing to deliberately warp stories and televise only the most shocking and manipulative 'news stories' at the expense of the facts. On the other hand, Nightcrawler is a character study of a pure sociopath, totally remorseless, maniacal and utterly unflinching in his desire to succeed, no matter what the cost. The most disturbing thing about Nightcrawler is how successful the marriage proves to be between Louis and Nina. They're a match made in... hell. Jake provides the ghastly and grotesque images, and in turn Nina beams them out into the world and attracts new viewers en masse. The facts clearly give way for media sensationalism, and it works remarkably well.
There's a lot of interesting societal, ethical and moral elements in Nightcrawler, but I think the first time director Dan Gilroy really struggled with maintaining a sense of momentum and focus throughout the film. Nightcrawler never flowed as well as it could have and a lot of intriguing elements seemed to be brushed aside and underdeveloped. Nightcrawler is a great movie that's elevated by Jake Gyllenaal's powerhouse performance of an unsettling sociopath who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, but I think it could have been a more effective movie in the hands of a more experienced director. The ending felt like more of a whimper than a bang to me, it was lackluster. When Nightcrawler should have been at its most impactful and suspenseful, it felt mundane and a little bit flat, although the wry and self aware humor did land well, I was just left wanting more of a resolution. Nightcrawler did manage to make me feel psychologically filthy after watching it though, kudos to Jake Gyllenhaal.
Written by - The Sentry - 04/12/2014