I’ll be honest with you – I wanted to see Nightcrawler largely because it had Jake Gyllenhaal in it. That and it was showing at the weird arthouse cinema that’s right near home/work. It’s safe to say, that my gravitating towards anything Gyllenhaal-esque is always a good idea, if only for the fact that it forces me to watch weird, but somewhat wonderful, films that I wouldn’t have considered otherwise.
Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is a sociopathic, mentally impaired scavenger – he desperately wants a job, and spends all day studying business online, but no one is willing to hire him. One night, Bloom comes across a group of men filming an accident on the road to sell to the morning news broadcasters – the grislier, the better, and all the more money to be made.
Bloom quickly buys a camera and a police scanner, and hires a hapless assistant, Rick (Riz Ahmed) for a pittance. After filming a particularly gory carjacking, Bloom gets in touch with Nina (Rene Russo) the news director of a morning news station, and one who is willing to put ratings before ethics.
Through the combination of his emotionless nature and his strange Business 101 ideals, Bloom quickly makes his ‘nightcrawling’ into a business – but at a cost. Not only does he set up accidents for better footage, but he also threatens Nina into sleeping with him in a particularly spine-tinglingly passive aggressive manner.
What makes the film of course is Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance, and I swear I’m saying that in a completely unbiased way. Not only has his appearance been dramatically altered for the role – long, lank hair and extreme weight loss being just two examples – but his mannerisms and quirks throughout the film make Bloom into a particularly complex and bone-chilling character. It is one thing to watch an actor play a sociopath unconvincingly, and quite enough to watch them do it with such skill that you become absorbed by their every movements, believing that they have, in fact, morphed into this creep.
The other standout feature of Nightcrawler was the black satire scattered throughout – some obvious, others less so. While the most apparent was the hideously accurate (if melodramatic) portrayal of today’s media – as Russo’s character states, ‘If it bleeds, it leads’. While I’d like to think that this is simply dramatisation for the film, previous examples of real life media tells us otherwise. However, it is the more subtle satire – from Gyllenhaal’s deadpan rendition of Business 101, to the idea that anyone can be hired as ‘an intern’ to avoid payment – that really hits the core.
Perhaps the only downfall of Nightcrawler is that it ends somewhat in an anticlimax, and with little to no reasoning behind it. Instead of a cliffhanger, the film ends with plots hastily introduced, only to be swept aside for the big finale. Unfortunately, though the writing was good throughout the rest of the film, this bizarre lack of ‘tying loose ends’, so to speak, somewhat dampened my overall opinion of the film.
Nightcrawler is receiving rave reviews and Gyllenhaal is rumoured to be up for the ‘Best Actor’ awards in the upcoming awards season. Whether the Academy Awards would acknowledge a film so bleak and a character so dark is another question, but that’s never stopped us from watching a film, now has it?
Have you seen Nightcrawler? Are you a fan of Jake Gyllenhaal? Let me know!