Published on November 1st, 2014 | by Chris Scott0
Summary: It isn’t a film that is meant to be liked, but rather its themes thought about and discussed.
As an avid fan of the horror genre, I have watched some of the most depraved actions ever caught on celluloid. Because of this, I have become desensitized to many things in modern film and I am rarely disturbed by a film or its characters. Nightcrawler, the first film from writer turned director Dan Gilroy, left me shaken.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Louis Bloom, a madly driven person looking for a job in the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles. From the opening scene it is obvious Bloom is not meant to be a likeable character. Something about him just seems off. After stumbling upon an accident and witnessing a freelance camera crew shooting footage of the crash and rescue efforts he decides on his latest career choice: to capture the news as a “nightcrawler”.
After stealing a bike and pawning it for a police scanner and cheap camera, Bloom starts his new career. He stumbles a bit, getting pushed around by veteran cameraman Joe Loder (Bill Paxton). And he quickly learns that nightcrawling is a cut throat business. Be there first or don’t bother. Bloom eventually gets his break by channeling his natural disregard for human decency to shoot the aftermath of a brutal carjacking right up close. This brings him to Nina Romina (Renee Russo), a producer at a local LA station that needs all the help it can get.
As Bloom gets better and better at his craft he sees an opportunity to get what he wants. He hires an assistant, a homeless man named Rick desperate for a job. He buys a car. And if Bloom’s awkward behavior wasn’t overly creepy beforehand, he starts to make advances towards Nina. Nina politely declines these advances at first but Bloom makes vague passive aggressive threats to get what he wants and then some.
And the more Bloom gets what he wants the further detached he seems to become as a human, at one point moving a body at a car crash to frame a better shot and going even further to create the news. He has little regard for those around him, treating everything like something to be used and then discarded. At every turn I was rooting for Bloom to fail, to finally get what was coming to him, but at every turn he was smarter than everyone else. Smarter than his assistant. Smarter than Nina. Smarter than the cops. When someone doesn’t align with Bloom, he breaks and destroys them. Bloom becomes the supervillain in a city with no heroes.
Nightcrawler is incredibly dark, but there is beauty hiding in its shadows. Gyllenhaal performance in particular is chillingly captivating to the point that I hated Louis Bloom. And Gilroy’s view of the city at night is wonderous. Where so many want to focus on Hollywood, Gilroy delivers a very different view of LA and it is one that shines on the screen. But the biggest beauty of the film is that it is effective in its delivery. Bloom isn’t meant to be liked; in fact, I’m pretty sure no one in the film is meant to be liked, and his demented view of this corner of the world is bone chilling. It is so chilling I am not sure I liked the film. But much like Bloom, maybe it isn’t a film that is meant to be liked, but rather its themes thought about and discussed.