4.5 out 5 stars
"What if my problem wasn't that I don't understand people but that I don't like them?" Lou Bloom
Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the product of a generation that has been fed a regular diet of self-help psychology and motivational speeches. In his tragic life these empty words are the basis for how he expresses his life. His relative morals change based on how they effect the achievement of his goals. Nightcrawler is set in the dark recesses of contemporary Los Angeles and it's journalistic news world. Specifically in the competitive industry of freelance video journalism. Where people strive to get the best video footage by being the first on the scene of the latest crash, fire, or crime scene. The old adage, "If it bleeds, it leads," is taken to new depths in Dan Gilroy's (Real Steal) nocturnal adventure. Bloom stumbles upon an opportunity to become a nightcrawler, which is the term for a night-time, freelance cameraman. He begins to see the potential of achieving financial reward, personal recognition and fame from behind the camera. Lou quickly learns the tricks of the trade and how to thrive in this ultra-competitive industry. After varied success, he begins to see the value of reaching into the tragic scenes and manipulating the scenes for the sake of money, influence and recognition. His insatiable need for attention is fuelled by Nina, a veteran news director who has as much to gain by Lou's video footage, who is played skilfully by Rene Russo. Nightcrawler contains action and high speed thrills, but the real story is found in the incremental glimpses into the mind of Lou Bloom. How far will he go to get the best video footage?
Jake Gyllenhaal and Dan Gilroy have outdone themselves with Nightcrawler. This film was eerily brilliant. In this world of moral relativism, the story blurs the lines of right and wrong. Gilroy takes the story back and forth across this line of morality so many times that the line is worn away and leaves nothing but an uneasy entertainment experience. It does beg the question of where the characters find their ethics and morals? Lou Bloom is at the centre of this journey into the realm of morality or lack of it. Gyllenhaal gives the performance of a lifetime. Lou seems likable, but a dark narcissism is hidden behind his winsome smile. Like the response most have toward the scenes that he films, Lou's character initially causes revulsion, but pulls you back to the bloody scene that is left in his wake. The comparison of his the scenes he films and his actual life includes the different individuals that are introduced throughout the film. These people come into Lou's orbit and have to determine if they will circumnavigate around his world or be destroyed by his gravitational pull. Their lives are a metaphor of his manipulated video footage and Rick Garcia, Rene Russo and Bill Paxton add depth to this sorted tale. Like the many flawed characters, Gilroy manages to utilise the night of the city to be an extension of Bloom and the murky side of his life which is a psychological thrill ride.
For all the brilliance of this film, there is an insatiable need to take a shower after leaving the theatre. The last thing you would want is the residue of Lou Bloom. He is masterfully crafted by Gyllenhaal, but in the end Lou does not have any redeeming qualities. The 'motivational speak' comes from his mouth like rapid firing bullets which inevitably find their victims. The brilliance of the writing and the acting manages to find the line of comfort and forces the audience to walk across it with Bloom. Each scene is directed effectively by Gilroy, who pulls back the curtain and reveals our voyeuristic need for up to the minute news. The ethical lines of the news business and life get blurred throughout the film and the characters seem quite satisfied to stay in the ambiguous side of life. Especially if they benefit from the result of their actions. Nightcrawler is like a spectacular accident scene on the highway, exciting to watch, but in the end you might wish you had looked away.
Reel Dialogue: What are the bigger questions to consider from this film?
1. What does the Bible say about ethics? (Isaiah 1:17-19, Luke 16:15, Romans 12:1)
2. Who can you trust? (Numbers 23:19, Psalm 89:34, Romans 8:28)
3. Do we have to like people? (Matthew 7:12, Luke 10:25-28)