Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a petty criminal who has a lot of business acumen and is extremely driven, but hasn’t found a place for his skills yet. This is when he discovers the profession of Nightcrawling, where individuals film crime scenes and then sell them on to new channels. He finds not only does he enjoy this, but he is actually rather good at it.
Ok, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this film. To be honest when I first saw the title I immediately thought it was a superhero film (like with whiplash), but then I heard a little more about it, and I thought I would be in for a good standard thriller that was solid but nothing special. Good lord, how wrong I was. This really is something special.
So Nightcrawler is essentially a sort of social commentary or satire on the kind of grotesque nature of news. It’s set in a world that is a little bit less morally sound than our own, or rather one we hope is less morally sound than our own. This is a world in which new channels seek the bloodiest and the most disturbing footage in order to get higher ratings, and freelance camera crews (or Nightcrawlers) attempt sometimes to beat the police to crime scenes in order to get more gruesome and disturbing footage. Jake Gyllenhaal’s character finds he is very good at this due to his complete lack in moral screen.
Jake Gyllenhaal is absolutely sensational here. His character is this odd mix of weird social ineptitude which would suggest that he doesn’t understand how people work, and also a strange charming streak that allows him to barter and negotiate with surprising levels of success. Jake Gyllenhaal manages to combine these two characteristics beautifully well, and while on paper the things he is doing should turn you completely off from his character, I mean he is the most ruthless and completely unhinged character I have ever seen, but Gyllenhaal’s performance manages against all the odds to keep you interested in him and actually care about him. I have never before seen a character like Lou Bloom.
Elsewhere In the movie there are very strong performances, Riz Ahmed has the role that keeps the film in the worrying realm of near realism. I think without Ahmed you could pass the film off as a complete fantasy, but his character is so real it makes it all a bit close to the bone. And I love that about this film. Rene Russo and Bill Paxton are other standouts.
Overall, this is an absolutely incredible piece of film. Not only does it excel as a social commentary on the fundamentally grotesque nature of news, but even as just a thriller it is absolutely brilliant. There are genuinely gasp worthy moments, and one scene in particular right at the end which will have you right on the edge of your seat. I loved this movie.