As part of my role as Screenkicker editor I sometimes do interviews with actors, directors, etc. I’ll admit I’m not the greatest person at approaching these people as my natural shyness causes me to feel I’m bothering them (that’s why i do most of my journalism in the bushes (nude)). What would I be like if I didn’t care about invading their space? Could I take it a step further and become some kind of paparazzi? Nightcrawler takes these questions to an extremely disturbing level with a jaw-dropping performance from Jake Gyllenhaal.
Gyllenhaal plays Louis Bloom a young man looking for a job and getting by through petty theft. After an incident on the highway one night he stumbles on the idea of being a nightcrawler, basically someone who captures footage of accidents, crimes, fires, or anything eye-catching and then sells it to a TV news show. The race for exclusives leads Louis down darker and darker paths as his ambition completely crushes any ethics he might have.
A few years ago the story of Nightcrawler would have seemed far-fetched and silly. However since the News of the World hacking scandal where the newspaper hacked the phones of many people including a murdered schoolgirl just to get a scoop the story seems chillingly plausible. This disgusting practice informs the movie as Louis takes actions that would make any normal person sick. I won’t go into detail but suffice to say there isn’t much Louis won’t film and then try to sell.
The movie hangs on the performance of its main star Jake Gyllenhaal who knocks it out of the park. After impressive turns in films like Brokeback Mountain and Zodiac its clear he’s a brilliant actor. Here he plays something completely different. Louis is obviously a sociopath and Gyllenhaal plays it to perfection. Sometimes creepy, sometimes friendly, its easy to see which of these traits is the sincere one. Louis is a man who wants to rise to the top and will do anything for that success.
Nightcrawler is a film that broaches many subjects. Namely press ethics, the race for TV ratings, and the state of the US job market. It implies that employment is so rare that young people will do just about anything for work and that through desperation anyone can abandon their morals. These issues are dealt with subtly using the supporting characters but this is Gyllenhaal’s film and he owns it with his chilling performance. Nightcrawler is not for the squeamish but it does contain flashes of dark humour throughout and is a brilliant character study of a sociopath.
Have you ever filmed someone when they didn’t know you were there? If your name is Eric there’s a 96% chance you have. Bonus Question: What is your favourite Jake Gyllenhaal film? Please don’t say Bubble Boy.
Screenkicker Night-time Psycho Index