Get ready for the “ride” of your life, as you follow Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal) on an energizing and exhilarating race to be the first to the scene of newsworthy catastrophic events. One thing is for sure, you will never watch the news the same way again. This self-reflexive movie delves into the world of capturing the worst days in people’s lives and constructing a story worthy of airtime. Full of characters you will love or love to hate, this movie is destined to be regarded as the most exciting movie about the business of television news after Mad City. Gyllenhaal gives the best performance of the year in this death defying roller-coaster of a movie. Whether you’re a news writer, camera operator, news director, or just like a thrilling movie, you will definitely have to make time to see this excellent work of cinema.
Nightcrawler is about petty thief turned television news cameraman Lou Bloom who steels and pawns in order to buy a camera to document tragic events in order to sell them to the highest bidding television news station. After several setbacks, he finally has his debut! And, that is just the beginning. He soon perfects his craft and turns the tables on his employers so that they need and want him. Primarily working for one struggling news station, he drives the nightly ratings up by being the first at every crime scene–even before the police. Determined to be the best, he dominates the market and drives out the competition. Being the best sometimes means bending the rules and taking one’s chance with death, and Bloom will stop at nothing to be the best and to have his name known around the city as the best nightcrawler capturing tragedies, deaths, and bizarre accidents on camera in a way that no one can match.
First highlighted in Hitchcock’s Psycho and a common thread in many horror/suspense films, Nightcrawler is constantly focusing on “eyes.” Throughout Psycho, the audience is faced with the bird’s eye view of Phoenix, the eyes of the real estate customer, Marion’s boss, the highway patrol officer’s, Norman’s, Marion’s lifeless eye, and most notoriously, the ever-whatchful eyes of mother. In the same vein as the Hitchcock masterpiece and foundation to the modern horror/suspense genre, this film follows suit by spending an incredible amount of time on “eyes.” Not always the eyes of the characters, but sometimes the eye of the camera–the lens. But, like any magic show staged by the best magicians, this film calls attention to not what is necessarily seen on screen (sometimes the screen within the screen) but what lies on the edges of what we see. THAT is where the true magic and story lie. The magician tells the audience to look stage right for the magic, when all along, the real magic is happening stage left. The term used to describe what happens on screen in a film is mise en scene. Destined to become a neo-classic, this film is the best self-reflexive film about the creation and sensation of television news after Mad City. It’s self-reflexive in that the entire movie is about the production and creation of that which the movie is based upon.
But it would be a mistake to suggest that this movie is told from Lou’s point-of-view, much less that it endorses his behavior. It’s too attuned to the anxiety and misery of the people he manipulates to validate such a reading. But it does put a subtle editorial frame around Lou’s odyssey. Nightcrawler is the blackly comedic, Neo-noir, night-people thriller that I wanted the Travis-Bickle-as-Superman fantasy Drive to be. Like Drive, it could be described as the best picture Michael Mann never made: a film about a private, ruthless loner who pursues his dream his way, always, and whose path through the world is marked by the bloodstains of the people he’s rolled over. In addition to Lou’s perspective, we get the points of view from the news director (Nina), his counterpart, and the news audience. It’s a comprehensive and dynamic story that seamlessly combines the perspectives of each of the elements to create the thrill ride that is as sensational as the stories on screen.
This film marks Dan Gilroy’s début as a director. He wrote the screenplay for The Bourne Legacy with his brother Tony, and although Nightcrawler is much less of an action movie, the pacing of the plot is remarkably adept, and we never have long to wait before the next bend in the road. More often than not, this being Los Angeles, that means a real bend. Lucky Lou reaches a smashed-up vehicle before anyone else, and, having taken a minute to weigh his options, drags the unconscious body of the victim into the pool of the headlights, the better to frame the disaster in style and give viewers a clearer look. He is like a Billy Wilder hero (Kirk Douglas’s unscrupulous reporter, say, from Ace in the Hole) transplanted to the land of David Lynch. The difference is that, where Lynch, in Wild at Heart and Mulholland Drive, follows those who stagger away from car wrecks, hurt and haunted, Gilroy remains with the haunter, who only stands and stares.
A film that should be shown in every television news production class, Nightcrawler is sure to transport anyone who watches it into the unscrupulous underworld of scooping the next station over to make a mark on the ratings charts. This is also a great film for any media ethics class because it provides the audience with fantastic material to discuss questions of how far is too far.