Luis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a down on his luck guy, scraping his way by selling scrap metal. After stumbling upon a car accident he sees a News van pull up and record the action. Suddenly a new career possibility opens up in front of him. However, Bloom is not afraid to get his hands dirty to get his footage which may wind him up in trouble.
Nightcrawler probes its viewfinder into the murky world of American network news, where channels fight each other for viewers. It reveals an extremely shaky moral line in what counts as news and what the news programmes should be showing, on the one side in the attempt to give the viewer the news for the day, but on a more corporate side, trying to entice the viewer with the most shocking and unmissable footage to gain the most regular viewers. The networks will buy the footage that shows the most, that pushes the boundaries and that will get people watching with horrified and concerned expressions. Their moto is ‘If it bleeds, it leads’, and as News programme executive Nina (Rene Russo) says when describing what she wants to Luis, ‘think of our newscast as a screaming woman, running down the street with her throat cut’. The film shines a light on the sad truth that stories about the tragedies of white, middle class families in good neighbourhoods rates better than that of a minority or working class person because that is what their viewers are more interested in; what could be happening on their streets rather than what is happening to somebody else. Self-preservation. This in turn points its finger at the viewer and makes us think, how does the news we watch present itself? and are we more interested in the stories that relate more to us than the terrible things happening to others?
Jack Gyllenhaal gives a controlled and thoroughly watchable performance. Luis Bloom is not a likeable person but Gyllenhaal makes sure that he is fascinating and interesting enough to keep us pulled in to the movie. Bloom is an intelligent man who, though not formally educated, reads and learns extensively from the internet, making sure that he is at the top of his game. He spouts corporate jargon and talks endlessly, wide eyed, always trying to sell himself, his product and push his way to the next level. He embodies the ‘American Dream’, working his way up from very little to make the big money, buying himself expensive cars, sunglasses and equipment, and expanding his company to gain a greater market share and even more money, and also to get his name known. It’s all part of his plan. This also means that the film turns its satirical eye towards corporate America. Bloom may be ambitious and good at what he does but he is ultimately a sociopath, going to great lengths to rise up and letting nothing stand in his way even if that means hurting others to get there. He shows no remorse at his actions or at anything he films, thinking only of the best shot rather than the people in front of him bleeding and dying. He speaks threats slowly and methodically, all part of his business patter, showing the other person that doing what he says is in their best interest. Welcome to America, where death sells and you can make a fortune if you’re willing to do anything.
This is the first feature by Dan Gilroy, previously a writer of film such as The Bourne Legacy and Real Steel, and he handles his debut well. He teases out a strong performance from Gyllenhaal and lands the right tone with the film for most of its duration. However, some of the music in the first half of the film seems out of kilter with the action, a couple of musical cues that seem to reference news titles feel too positive for the dark footage playing on the screen, though this may be reflecting the feeling inside Blooms head, and this does jar a little. However, this is a small niggle in a generally entertaining work. Gilroy also orchestrates one of the year’s best car chases, a chase of a chase no less, that is exciting and exhilarating, like much of the film itself.
Nightcrawler is an enthralling, interesting, exciting and disturbing film from first time director Dan Gilroy, with an entrancing performance from Jake Gyllenhaal.