By Darin Skaggs
In this day and age anyone can get famous for only doing a little bit due to social media. The crazier a post to a website or terrifying moment caught on video will get many views. Our public is obsessed with articles labeled “You won’t believe what happens next!” We find we can’t help but view these awful acts, whatever it may be, maybe because most don’t know what a shooting or car accident looks like. Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut Nightcrawler is a look at the very idea of those articles and where they come from.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Louis Bloom a man who always knows just what to say and is very motivated. If you were up against him in a job interview you would not stand a chance. When we first meet him he is collecting fence wire to sell to earn some money. He runs into a security guard. Louis is calm, cool and collected. After a few words Louis attacks the guard, steals his watch and goes about his business. While selling the wire to a construction site he tries to talk his way into a job. He says everything right but doesn’t get the job, the reasons are revealed is the man doesn’t want to hire a thief. Driving along the road, obviously bummed about not getting a job he sees a car wreck. After checking out the wreck a bit, a couple of men carrying cameras start filming the action. It turns out this is a job where the men film potential news stories and go sell it to the news stations. Being the determined man he is Louis jumps right into this line of work. It turns out he is good at it and he becomes more obsessed with getting better.
Gyllenhaal gives the best performance of the year so far. He plays a manipulative guy who always knows what to say. Gyllenhaal plays it not like a guy who is good at talking, but someone who taught himself how to talk. For most people talking just comes naturally to them, not even noticing they are doing it anymore like breathing. Louis though, talks like no one else, almost like a bad actor who knows his lines just not how to make it seem natural. That doesn’t stop him from getting exactly what he wants like convincing his co-worker that getting paid less is okay or that the news company should buy from him. Deeper into the film we see the true evil of this man, in the beginning you feel sorry for him, but the joy he gets from getting everything he wants no matter the sin he commits just becomes appalling.
The film also speaks to how demented we are as a collective public. The pieces that Louis films are at most points violent, dark and scary. The head of news station Louis is selling to, Nina who is played by Rene Russo, knows that the public wants to see this dark footage. No one wants to admit it but with the internet and 24 hour news channels on we have access to all this dark material. Most people at the news station don’t want to show the violent images, but they are not in charge. Nina shows all these because it is helping ratings and even shows footage that has evidence of Louis breaking the law, but at times he gets away with it because he made successful television.
Nightcrawler is a great psychological thriller, the whole film filled with dread with an ending so cold it will leave you haunted. Gyllenhaal gives his best work of his career so far. Hopefully this is not a one hit wonder for Gilroy because this film is absolutely brilliant.