By Max Havey
Nightcrawler is a legitimately thrilling film that is at the same time terrifying.
The film follows the story of Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), a go-getter who is doing anything to survive. When the film opens up, he is trying to parlay selling stolen chain link fence and copper wire into a construction job and gets shot down. After witnessing freelance cameramen cover the aftermath of a gruesome roadside crash, Lou turns his efforts to broadcast news. He teams up with Nina Romina (Rene Russo), the graveyard shift news manager at a station whose motto is “If it bleeds, it leads.” The rest of film follows Lou as he delves into dark ethical territory in order to get the juiciest footage.
Don’t be fooled by my summary, Lou is not a good guy. He is actually a terrifying sociopath. He is charming, cold, calculating and cutthroat. Think of him like Hannibal Lecter, but with a man bun. Gyllenhaal’s performance is mesmerizing, making a meek looking guy speak with the passion and anger of a serial killer. It is reminiscent of some of Robert De Niro’s more detached characters, like Travis Bickle in the Taxi Driver or Rupert Pupkin in the King of Comedy. It would not surprise me in the slightest if he got an Oscar nomination out of this role.
Here is the best way to thematically describe this film. Imagine if you took the unsettling atmosphere and disturbed protagonist of the Taxi Driver mixed with the voyeurism of Rear Window and all of the best parts of Drive. It also manages to examine the ethics of what is showing too much in the world of broadcast news, especially in today’s constant fight for viewers. This running theme of what is “going too far” for journalists has shown up in many recent films like Gone Girl and the Edward Snowden documentary CITIZENFOUR.
Just because Nightcrawler has a heavy focus on ethics, does not mean there isn’t plenty of action. Like Drive, there are plenty of high-speed car chases and moments of crazy action that will keep most viewers eyes glued to the screen. It is a great mix of plot and action that keeps viewers interested.
Overall, Nightcrawler is an incredible thrill ride of a movie full of great performances. It is a must see for anyone in the market for a smart thriller that will not only challenge they way viewers think about news coverage of horrific events, but keep them entertained until the credits roll.