Nightcrawler, written and directed by Dan Gilroy, paints the portrait of a vile creature that lurks in the darkness preying off of people as a videographer in L.A. Jake Gyllenhaal’s Louis “Lou” Bloom is disturbing, yet compelling, a tension that Gilroy delicately engineers. The plot follows as Lou becomes a stringer, learns more about the TV news broadcasting industry and forces himself to greater and greater heights within it. Dark and austere, the film captures the gritty reality of news production, and the way human life becomes commodified. Nina Romina (Rene Russo), the news director at KWLA 6, tells Lou that the news channel is looking, and willing to pay, for “graphic” footage of accidents or crimes, specifically those in wealthy or white areas, perpetrated by minority ethnic groups. This spurs Lou’s crazed pursuit of bloodied scenes in the city, which he films and sells, with no regard to those involved.
Lou lacks any human connection or attachment, purely viewing others as instruments he can use to accomplish his own agenda. In his characterisation of Lou, Gyllenhaal uses a voice that is devoid of expression and feels impersonal to further convey Lou’s lacking. His voice at times feels robotic and automated, as though he is reading a prepared script without feeling. Fittingly Lou does bloom in the industry, he is business-oriented, capable and unwavering in his determination to succeed. He hires Rick (Riz Ahmed) as an assistant, quotes books on management and business strategy, and plans accordingly. All of which works perfectly to show his calculating persona and to better understand the way his mind processes information.
The film’s editing manages to balance quieter, nuanced moments that have an underlying tension, with punchy fast-paced car chases and adrenaline pumping scenes. The tension of the film balances on Lou’s lack of morals. He is corrupt to the core, as there appears to be no lengths he will not go to in order to obtain footage. What’s most distressing is the fact he prospers and flourishes in this vocation, allowed to get away with things because it’s what the media demands.
The captivating story, which won Dan Gilroy the Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay, in conjunction with talented, well-cast actors makes this film memorable. Jake Gyllenhaal portrays the disconnected-from-humanity psyche of Lou in yet another incredible performance. He is able to show the subtleties and the fearful workings of Bloom’s mind. Rene Russo too is superb and she is able to portray the complexities to her character, at times showing vulnerability and at others resilience. Riz Ahmed is fantastic in the role of Rick, the assistant whose innocence is all too easily taken advantage of. The actors’ abilities and Gilroy’s effective direction are all too apparent in the fact that shooting only lasted for four weeks.
Nightcrawler has an intensity that keeps you invested. The plot is compelling, even though it’s centered on the despicable Lou. The film shines a harsh light on news outlets, the stringer profession and the media’s profiting off of others’ misfortune. This is the cruel, seedy underbelly of the media and those that lurk in the shadows to feed it. A glimpse into the reality behind the camera, Nightcrawler is a must-see.