WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is unemployed but enthusiastically looking for work. His determination is disturbing at best and creepy at worst.
In his efforts to earn some money, he encounters a freelance TV cameraman, Joe (Bill Paxton), who follows his police scanner around LA, filming footage he hopes to sell to the networks.
Louis starts getting ideas. He buys a cheap video camera and soon gets himself into trouble with police and with rival cameramen as he tries to get the angles that will persuade TV news editor Nina (Rene Russo) to buy his footage.
Before long, his new business really takes off. He upgrades his equipment, hires an unsuspecting assistant, Rick (Riz Ahmed), and puts noses out of joint across the industry.
But when he stumbles across a mass murder at a mansion in an upmarket neighbourhood, before the police arrive – before the killers have even left, he sees dollar signs flashing before his eyes.
The old tabloid adage of “if it bleeds, it leads” raises the stakes as Nina is desperate for all the footage she can get, while the police start wondering whether he knows anything that could help their investigation.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Nightcrawler is notable, to a great extent, for Jake Gyllenhaal’s appearance and his performance – and how they differ from every other time he’s been seen on screen. Looking gaunt – almost ghostly – yet bursting with life, spitting out mantras and theories learned from books and the internet, rather than any experiences he’s ever had. In fact, chasing ambulances seems to be the only thing he’s learned to do outside.
Louis Bloom could be seen as greedy, selfish, deluded, immoral, pompous even. But the way he clearly can’t separate out what he knows in theory from how things work in practice suggest a complete lack of empathy, suggesting that rather than being deliberately unpleasant or criminally sociopathic, he might actually be towards the autistic end of the spectrum, making it hard for the audience to hate him – but equally hard to identify with him, which – in a sense – feels odd with a character who’s enthusiastically trying to progress in the world and better himself.
While the film is set in the ratings-grabbing world of TV news – and works, on one level, as a media satire – Nightcrawler is more of a downbeat character study of a disturbed and disturbing man.
He’s a kind of nihilist optimist, as he expects everyone else in the world to conform to his view and he always has the utmost confidence that things will work out the way he wants them to.
Better known as a writer, Gilroy’s first outing in the director’s seat is effective enough, as the plot unfolds at a satisfying pace with impressive action sequences, including unexpected car chases, and the twists and turns are rarely obvious.
But while the film is, at times, an exhilarating watch, there’s not much of an emotional core; the central character is a grotesque that few people would want to spend any time with – not least because most of the people who spend time with him are lying in a pool of blood.
The film is a bit of a Gilroy family affair – written and directed by Dan, starring his wife Rene Russo, edited by his twin John, produced by their brother Tony and with his niece Carolyn in a supporting role.