If it bleeds, it leads. A familiar quote popularized throughout mainstream journalism and less reputable publications. These words also happen to find their way into this movie, summing up the story pretty nicely. Media rarely leaves out the depressing and violent stories in its broadcast because, despite our better judgement, when the ratings tick up for that brief moment they know they’ve got something. Skating the edge of their own standards to entice us and giving that in-depth reporting that only gruesome imagery and specific, personal details of the victims can provide. Yet the beauty of this film is its approach on the subject matter; told through the eyes of a severely committed and dangerously motivated freelance journalist trying to inch his way into a field of work he happens to stumble upon without any prior experience.
In the movie Nightcrawler, written and directed by Dan Gilroy, Louis Bloom(Jake Gyllenhaal) is an opportunist looking for anything that will make him money. He takes online business courses and is fluent in management terminology that he uses to persuade potential employers. After a drive at night selling stolen metal to a scrap yard, he encounters a car accident and witnesses a pseudo-professional freelance journalist(Bill Paxton) shooting the action. Realizing the potential gold mine, Louis hires someone to help him film accidents and crime scenes in the hopes of selling the footage to a news channel. His lack of common decency is well-suited for this line of work as he ignores the presence of paramedics or police to film up-close shots of the victims. While his ambitious style yields results and pays off at a local station run by Nina(Rene Russo), he begins to seek out more dangerous scenes of crime to enhance his importance and continue to attract the attention of his new colleagues. Perhaps even incidentally becoming part of the story he tries to capture on film.
The main characters feel genuine even while exhibiting surreal behavior, headlined by our lead actor. The quiet contemplation on Gyllenhaal’s face as he calculates his next move to further his career and the creepy intensity he exudes when he’s discussing his business plan or spouting off some random fact he studied online draws you into the story even more. Louis goes to great lengths to give Nina what she wants and she accepts his footage, and his cheerful, yet abrasive personality; even though she can tell laws are being broken. She is motivated by ratings and anything she can do to meet her deadline is ok in her book.
The moments spent in the car with Louis and his assistant are as nerve-wracking as the scenes he drives off to film because, while his intentions are straightforward, his desire to catch that next big story as it unfolds makes him take greater risks and even flirt with arresting offenses. Louis weaves through the Los Angeles streets with his navigator at his side, trying to reach scenes ahead of law enforcement and his competition. Police scanners on the dash feeding him his nightly assignments and the rush of receiving notoriety take over any sense of self-control. Any loss of life in the process is inconsequential and doesn’t factor into his business plan.
I enjoyed the 70’s noir atmosphere of the film and how the moments continue to escalate and still remain grounded. Louis is a lonely character who brings his A-game to any scenario. A smile and a delivery like he knows a little about a lot and could tackle any task without difficulty. It’s disturbing to see his ideas work, but his talents align perfectly with the news media. The music is probably less noir and more upbeat and just off-putting. It’s as if the movie was trying to frame Louis as a rags-to-riches entrepreneur ascending the world of high-profile news production. A rather satirical score to compliment and counteract the dark aspects of our character. He doesn’t really have any redeeming qualities, but we root for him to succeed if only to see either his epic downfall or his personal empire built from his mastery of manipulation.
I enjoyed Nightcrawler and recommend it for Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance above all else. His delivery of the character propelled the narrative beyond the usual voyeurism storylines. The tension built up at a very good pace and while the conclusion seems somewhat predictable, you still marvel at Louis’ decisions. Contradicting our own common sense and respect for human life. If only death and pain wasn’t such a lucrative business.
Synopsis: When Lou Bloom, a driven man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story. Aiding him in his effort is Nina, a TV-news veteran.
Directors: Dan Gilroy
Writers: Dan Gilroy
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Bill Paxton, Rene Russo
Runtime: 117 Minutes
October 31, 2014