Released in 2014, Nightcrawler stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a nightcrawler, a person whose job it is to film crime and other news-worthy incidents on location, selling them to the highest bidding news station. He also happens to be a psychopath.
This film has been categorized as a neo-noir crime thriller, but something about that label bothers me. Louis Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is indeed an antihero, but the setting and mood of the film don’t easily lend itself to the neo-noir description. The plot eventually settles around a central act of crime, but it’s not a mystery, and avenging/solving the crime isn’t the point. So what is this film, exactly? Let’s review it and try to find out. There will be spoilers.
Having just watched and reviewed Her, I have now been treated to two consecutive stellar performances by the leading actor. Gyllenhaal plays Louis Bloom, an out-of-work hustler who will do anything to survive and climb the ladder of money and power. The character is interesting in that he starts out with nothing but a car and an apartment, but by the end he has a news broadcasting station by the balls. He accomplishes this through immoral and unethical actions, a complete disregard for human life other than how they can serve him, and by possessing an intelligence that is uncanny, orderly, and uncompromising.
It is evident that Gyllenhaal lost a substantial amount of weight to achieve the look of a hungry hustler, and has spent countless hours rehearsing to himself in order to pick up the mannerism and behaviour of this crafty psychopath. Gllenhaal’s portrayal is on-point, because Bloom is genuinely disturbing, dangerous, and oddly magnetic. I couldn’t wait to see what he was going to do next, because he keeps getting away with everything! Bloom falls into the same category as Dexter and Walter White: guys who you may root for, but are ultimately the bad guys. Unlike Dexter and Walter, Bloom full embraces his psychopathy, though it’s more likely that he is ignorant or indifferent to it. Just this one performance alone is worth watching the entire movie for.
Another good thing about this film is it’s novelty. In a time when Hollywood seemed unable to get enough of cities being destroyed, Nightcrawler was indeed a refreshing change of pace. It’s down-to-earth, meaningfully gritty, and morbidly funny, with a plot that doesn’t involve the fate of the Earth!
Suspension of disbelief was the biggest problem here, though not so noticeable as to ruin the experience. My problem was that Bloom seemed to be getting away with a lot. In the film, he moves bodies, touches everything in a crime scene, and gets in the way of cops and paramedics doing their jobs. It seems highly unlikely that he’d be allowed to do this in the first place, much less continue to do so. Another thing that was off-putting was how freely he was able to roam around the news station. I know the film is trying to tell a much larger story, but it is doubtful that a freelancer would meet with the News Director the very first night he enters the building. I’m not sure how to resolve these problems while keeping the film short and entertaining, so you can pretty much label this as whining.
The Lead Story
Make no mistake, the number one reason why this movie is great is Gyllenhaal’s performance and the quirkiness (to put it nicely) of the character he plays. However, this film deserves to be commended for tackling a relevant societal issue.
It’s not the main focus of the film, but there are criticisms of what news stations choose to broadcast, as well as the potential for manipulation of information. It is especially relevant today given the speed of information and how desperate news stations are for ratings, from hiring for sex appeal and sensationalizing news items to the point of blatant falsification.
The best part is that this political message is completely in line with the plot and the point of the movie! Director and writer Dan Gilroy has stated that one of the guiding themes of this story was to put a manipulative and amoral character in a modern setting and have him be rewarded, and on this point the film succeeds.
Now, gamobo is a blog that focuses on entertainment and reviews, but ethically speaking (suck it, Bloom), I should note that I do not blame news stations at all for what this film is trying to point out. It is us, the viewers, who give the stations their ratings. We are the ones who decide to tune in, and ratings are only a way of telling them what we want to see. Like all major issues, it all comes back to the people.
Given that this movie’s entire appeal is based on the character of Bloom and what he does on screen, this movie is most definitely a thriller. It’s the type of film where you are on the edge of your seat waiting to see what the crazy bastard will do next, and what the ramifications of his decisions will be.
Highly recommended for a mature audience looking for something to keep them glued to the screen for a couple of hours. This film will be doubly satisfying for those who are socially conscious, but that’s just a bonus. You want to watch this film because it’s always fun seeing an intelligent psychopath go about his business.
This has been a gamobo review. Thanks for reading.