‘Nightcrawler’ Review

Nightcrawler is about a determined, well-spoken, and smart young man named Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal). Louis is currently unemployed in Los Angeles looking for any kind of work from selling stolen scrap to accepting an unpaid internship to get his foot in the door. He stumbles into “nightcrawling” work,  in which freelance video crews roam the night shooting up-close footage of car accidents, murders, and other tragedies to sell to news stations.
    Louis turns out to have the perfect mind set for this sort of work and quickly becomes a regular videographer for one of the lower rated news stations in LA, headed by news director Nina Romina (Rene Russo). He “expands” by hiring a low-paid assistant, Rick (Riz Ahmed), to help him navigate on his nightly runs. As he delves further into his career, Louis blurs the lines between observer and participant as he will do whatever it takes to get the best shot.

     Nightcrawler is not a feel-good movie. Louis is a greasy, disgusting, and creepy person. I felt like I needed to wash all the grossness off of me after seeing the film. We see Louis do truly horrible things to people to get what he wants, but this is not bad for the film. The film is a clever critique on the media, the footage they are willing to show on the news, and how they exploit tragedies in order to increase ratings. While some of the footage these stations show would never air on an Indiana news station, the Los Angeles setting allowed the film to stay believable with some of the graphic footage on the news.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo in ‘Nightcrawler’
     The only reason that a film with such a creepy main character works is an excellent performance by Jake Gyllenhaal, who shows the hollowness of the character, using his fast talking nature and empty smile to get what he wants. Gyllenhaal is at the top of his game, delivering a possibly award-winning performance in the film. However, the rest of the cast doesn’t deliver quite as well as he does, especially Riz Ahmed as Rick, who doesn’t feel like a fleshed-out character. Rene Russo delivers a great performance as well, though she feels like almost the same person as Louis at times.

The screenplay is fairly solid even though there are bumps in the road. The first act of the film was too long and slow in setting up Louis’s motivations and his personality. Also the way Louis stumbles into becoming a nightcrawler was sloppy and unrealistic. Because nothing of interest happens in the first act, I was bored by the end of it, and there were plenty of things that could have been shortened to make it to the second act.

The second act begins with a home-invasion triple murder and the film becomes interesting with this central direction and more of the crime thriller themes the trailer promises. It’s a shame that about half of the film is used to set up characters instead of advancing the plot.

Gyllenhaal delivers a career best in ‘Nightcrawler’
     The cinematography was great; most of the film takes place at night, giving us a very dark and vibrant LA. I was glad to see that we still see plenty of color, almost giving it a neon feel. Even though some of the news footage gathered by Louis seems to be way too high of a quality for the equipment he has, it doesn’t take away from the film’s realism.

I thought the film’s commentary on the media’s obsession with ratings over actual news was brilliant. This idea is summed up in a single line when Louis tells Nina that the news had only dedicated 25 seconds of their 30-minute newscast to the actual news and spent 25-and-a-half minutes discussing these crime stories. As someone who wants to pursue a career in media, I thought Nightcrawler was a thought-provoking movie about the media’s gross underbelly, from the underhanded and sometimes offensive profession of being a nightcrawler, to the news director’s complete ignorance of all ethical principles in favor of good ratings.

All in all, Nightcrawler is a film that will get under your skin. Some of you might feel gross and want to watch your comfort film. But don’t let that keep you from seeing a truly interesting film with provocative themes. Although the first act may be slow, one of Jake Gyllenhall’s best career performances and the payoff of acts two and three are well worth the watch.