Movie Review: “Nightcrawler” – Stylishly Unsettling

Written by Hannah Kay November 12, 2014

This past week, I had the uncomfortable pleasure of watching “Nightcrawler”, a heavy-handed critique on how the media and audiences embrace grotesque violence, and the willingness to excuse those that provide us with what we want, regardless of how reprehensible the act is in achieving it. The title role involves the job description of driving around downtown L.A. looking for and rushing to scenes of gruesome accidents and assaults in order to film the victims. These films are then bargained over and sold to the local L.A. news stations, who then rush to present the footage to American audiences

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Louis Bloom, an unblinking and intense individual, who stumbles into the world of nightcrawling when he encounters another freelance cameraman at a car crash near the side of the freeway. He is immediately enraptured, and you can pinpoint the exact moment Lou decides that nightcrawling will be his ticket to “expanding to the next level”. Throughout the entire movie, Lou is constantly spitting out clichéd business phrases and can-do expressions in an attempt to illustrate how serious he is about his goals. Lines like “If you want to win the lottery, you have to make the money to buy a ticket” and “A friend is a gift you give yourself” are the types of phrases that can be heard from Lou throughout the film.

Equipped with a car, police scanner, and camcorder, Lou quickly forges ahead in the field, but his sociopathic personality is first demonstrated when he breaks into a crime scene in order to get footage of inside the home where a shooting took place. We can see him deliberately moving pictures around in order to achieve the best shot. Instead of being rebuked, he is warmly accepted by Nina, an overnight news producer for a local network, who is eager to boost her low ratings with the lurid images that would undoubtedly draw viewers. She even goes so far as to describe her show as “screaming woman, running down the street with her throat cut.”

Things escalate from there, when Lou arrives at a mansion while a break-in is taking place. Lou hides in the bushes and films the assailants as they’re getting away. He again shows a complete disregard for ethics when he then walks into the house and proceeds to film the dead bodies and the numerous blood spatters on the walls. He even films one of victims as he’s gasping his last breaths. His actions only get worse, as Lou strives towards success in his business.

“I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.”

Gyllenhaal absolutely nails this role. His eyes are exceptionally expressive, displaying his manic and determined disposition, which do not at all match the rest of his slouched, greasy body. In an interview, Gyllenhaal described the character as being like a “hungry coyote” and from the moment he’s on screen, it’s instantly obvious what he means.

As the directorial debut of seasoned writer, Dan Gilroy, the movie is outstanding. Immediately we can see incredibly beautiful shots of all the different settings in Los Angeles. The film moves at a very quick pace, with montages stringing scenes together. It’s been compared to Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver” in its style, and even has an allusion to the mirror scene. The story or filming is not especially original or innovative, but the intensely uncomfortable atmosphere that it creates is something that cannot be ignored.

Overall, “Nightcrawler” is seriously disturbing. Just the thought of someone exploiting the gory images from car wrecks and muggings is incredibly unsettling, and one that is continually explored in this film. While I would recommend this film to any cinephile ,I have to issue the warning that anyone who gets uneasy at the sight of gore should most definitely stay away.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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