Movie Review | Nightcrawler (2014) | A Slick Piece of Cinema



Underneath the dim lights of a nocturnal Los Angeles, a hollow eyed creature claws out of the ether. He is a predator equipped with cunning, ambition and a chillingly calm demeanor. He is Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), a driven man whose most dangerous weapon is his mind and it might be coming unhinged. Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut is a thrilling character study that plunges viewers into the seedy underworld of television journalism alongside an engrossingly strange character.

Bloom is looking to make a sizeable income and when he follows police cruisers to the scene of an accident, he sets his sights on a promising new career opportunity. With his curiosity peeked by what he witnesses, he begins asking questions and learns about “nightcrawling”, the business of capturing video footage of horrific crime or accident scenes, to sell to television stations for airing on the news. There is a competitive angle to it and Bloom has his eyes set on dominating the field, which is bad news for Joe Loder (a flawlessly cast Bill Paxton), the nightcrawler who supplies Bloom with his initial intel.
When the film opens, it’s clear that something is amiss with Lou. It’s just unclear what exactly that is. He’s quick witted, hyper intelligent, blisteringly motivated and exceptionally odd. Whether these attributes are the makings for someone outright sinister is the central hook of the film. Not one to inundate its audience with answers, there are numerous questions left open to interpretation, which gives the audience room to speculate.
Bloom is an entity that sweeps into existence out of nowhere. He’s presented as a sort of crash landed alien, fascinated with the world around him and appalled over its continued unawareness of his existence. While Bloom’s ego is reminiscent of Patrick Bateman’s in “American Psycho”, he comes across far more diabolical and frighteningly plausible than the caricature Bateman is presented as, which is a major plus in the “Nightcrawler” column.

The protagonist at hand is fascinating enough to carry various plots and Dan Gilroy’s chosen setting is indeed the perfect showcase for a crafty character such as this. The specter of true crime tabloid journalism and all of its tricky moral implications ups the ante, offering a unique neo-noir vibe. Through the looking glass of this harsh go-getter, you catch a glimpse of the nightly news that is shocking, disturbing and satirically accurate when it comes to select markets.
The juxtaposition of Bloom’s flagrant persona is sharply contrasted with the “normal” appearing worker bee anchors, whose buzzing behind the news desk is issued a cutting indictment which brings to mind the old adage, “better the devil you know…” It’s these subtle inferences that make “Nightcrawler” a movie that is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining.
Gilroy’s script is fast paced, smart, electrifying and gripping from beginning to end. A bastion of memorably stellar lines boosts the films’ quality even further. Between rejuvenating the acronym for fear and a negation exchange between Bloom and his protégé, there is a cache of cleverness that can’t be entirely devoured in one viewing. At times a satirical commentary on tabloid news and the enduring human curiosity into the lurid; “Nightcrawler” hones in on some brutal truths, which are too evident to ignore. This is a probing thriller, one that compels its audience to dig deeper than most films in this vein.

As Bloom begins crossing the line between witness and instigator, it unravels with such a hypnotic flair that one is drawn into riding shotgun in his cherry red Charger without realizing they ever stepped inside. Armed with a spectacular script, star Jake Gyllenhaal brings Bloom to ferocious life. In a turn that is nothing short of mesmeric, he seeps into the pours of Bloom, imbuing him with a presence that borders on transcendental. Walking the fine line of mystique and obvious candor, Gyllenhaal goes for broke. He conveys a complexity of emotion that ranges from the mystically pensive to outright brazen and he manages to do so without ever letting it tailspin into over exaggeration. I did not see a better performance in 2014.
Instead of a character study solely consumed with growth, the nucleus of “Nightcrawler” revolves around a reveal. While there is an evolutionary bent to Bloom’s journey, it is the circumstances that unveil who already existed before the film began. There are glimpses of who that someone is and neither Gilroy nor Gyllenhaal let Bloom tip his hand, allowing the intrigue to fully captivate. A slick piece of cinema that warrants the rare second watch, “Nightcrawler” leaves a bitingly brilliant and lasting impression. Rating: 9/10