Jake Gyllenhaal stars as the sadistic, voyeur photographer Lou Bloom in this classic L.A. thriller. Jake Gyllenhaal lost 30 pounds to play the lead character of Lou Bloom, a thief turned ambulance-chasing photographer who perseveres to leave his blood stained mark on L.A.’s journalism world. Bloom’s moral compass is guided by the advice he receives at the beginning of the film, “If it bleeds, it leads,” as he deceives and manipulates his way to owning a successful TV business. Gyllenhaal plays the role with all the unnerving attributes of 2007’s No Country For Old Men villain Anton Chigur coupled with the sociopathic tendencies of Travis Bickle from Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. This is a fantastic portrayal of a marginalized loner on the fringes of society. The film’s protagonist Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal) starts the film as a man marginalized from the rest of society, unable to get a job Bloom resorts to thieving copper wiring and man hole covers to pay his bills. While driving in the dead of night Bloom stumbles across a car accident where a local television van pulls up to film the victims inside the blazing vehicle. Fascinated by the spectacle Bloom asks local TV cameraman (Bill Paxton) if he is currently hiring, but is told his job is freelance and the material is sold to the highest bidder. Bloom immediately goes to his local pawn-shop, hustles a video camera and a police radio and hit’s the L.A. streets searching for the bloodiest crimes the city has to offer.
After filming his first footage of a car crash victim on a stretcher Bloom heads to the local television news station. Here he encounters the cut throat news director Nina Romina (Rene Russo) who is struggling to keep her job due to falling ratings and relies heavily on local crime stories to keep her afloat. This is a requirement Bloom will later manipulate for his own good and influence Romina into adopting his sadistic vision of the city. Romina informs Bloom about what her viewers are most scared of –the highest rating crime stories are ones involving affluent white folks in their ‘safe’ suburban neighbourhoods. Romina gives Bloom a metaphorical brief, to find news that is like “a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut,” A brief that Bloom feels compelled to fulfil. Lou and his thirty-dollar-a-night assistant, Rick (Riz Ahmed), breach barriers, and get close enough to horrific crime scenes, they break moral codes and interfere with their work to get ahead of their competition by providing the best in-your-face footage. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom with an unnerving intensity, not too dissimilar to the detective he recently played in 2013’s Prisoners, but this role is far meatier and blessed with beautiful dialogue. Bloom reels off the capitalist information he devours from the internet about how to become a great businessman. Bloom’s dialogue sounds like the self-help videos about how to become a millionaire, videos that are aimed at the vulnerable people on the fringes of society. He delivers each line in an eerily composed manner as if he has rehearsed each line, each scenario, thousands of times from the confines of his bedsit. First time feature director Dan Gilroy hits the right notes with this film treating Bloom from a distance, through his own camera lens, to the point that we revel in the audacity of the photographer’s actions and are repulsed by his lack of morals. He also satires the media obsessed, self-help, capitalist culture by making the evil intentions of his protagonist almost seem acceptable, as news director Nina Romina becomes dependent on Bloom’s horrific content.
Nightcrawler is a classic modern thriller; it’s a darkly funny and captivating movie, with an intensity that builds with the audacity of Lou Bloom’s actions. The L.A streets make for compelling viewing and Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a bold and memorable performance.
Written by Will Harper