– by David Morgan-Brown
More often than not, films about the news tend to be scathing portrayals (as if the news is the evil brother of film). Nightcrawler is no exception, though it’s steeped in our modern times, roping in contemporary worries like the expendability of workers, the falsity of the people working in the media, and the ever expanding class disparity. With its finger tightly on the pulse of the more vulture-like aspects of modern-day capitalist society, Nightcrawler is a terrifically and blackly comical film that is equally entertaining and resonating (and it’s very entertaining).
At the centre of the film is the nightcrawler himself, brilliantly named Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), who uses his head-strong entrepreneurial spirit to become a cameraman for grisly murder scenes to sell to his local news-station. Lou uses his wits and his sharp talk to (moderately) climb the corporate ladder and this is achieved so well through Gyllenhaal, who talks in motivational catchphrases and seems to put up an entire facade to hide his true personality (we only get one scene where we see Lou as he really is). His initial ass-kissing leads him more and more towards a higher position of power, as his amoral but admittedly professional hard work creates these opportunities for him to abuse. It’s lucky that such a fantastic performance isn’t wasted on an average script, his dialogue is irritatingly catchy and suave, with a hidden hint of the immense creepiness bubbling under the surface.
As great as Gyllenhaal’s performance is as this highly modern and memorable character, the supporting characters too bring in so much to the story. Rick (Rik Ahmed) is perfect as a bumbling newly immigrated man taken advantage of in the job market of America, working long night hours for what seems like less than the minimum wage. When his life becomes endangered by this high-octane job, Lou Bloom becomes comparable to the devious entrepreneurs that value their income over all things, including the lives of their dedicated co-workers. There is also the “romantic” interest, Nina (Rene Russo), who is the newscaster that Lou brings his controversial material to. Many films tends to throw in a romantic subplot that ends up doing nothing to further the story or develop the characters, but the one here is brilliantly subverted, showing Lou’s uneasy job-like mannerisms extend into his stale social life.
I can’t say that Lou Bloom is a likeable guy or entirely sympathetic. But he shows how a hard-working citizen can use their own initiative and dedication to propel themselves in their career and create a job opportunity for themselves and others, no matter how much they disregard the integrity or morality of their business or employees. Nightcrawler is sure to leave you with a sour taste in your mouth and hopefully a manic grin like the one Lou Bloom so often wears.