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.
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.
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.