Guns’ Guide to Movies: Nightcrawler

In his intense, unnerving, and borderline psychopathic portrayal of Louis (Lou) Bloom, Jake Gyllenhaal does something I had previously never thought possible: he made Jake Gyllenhaal unattractive. I don’t mean just in the physical sense.gyllenhaal-nightcrawler-trailer Yes, he reportedly lost 20 pounds for this role, giving him a pencil thin frame and eyes that look like they’re going to pop out of his skull at any moment, but, it’s the subtle creepiness in his speech and mannerisms that make Lou Bloom the type of person that would lead a person to wait for the next one if he was the only person in an elevator.

When we first meet Lou Bloom he is selling stolen scrap metal to make a living and decking security guards who get in his way. When he stumbles on to the scene of a violent car crash, he sees men with cameras circling the wreckage like birds of prey. He learns about the people who chase crime around Los Angeles trying to get the most gruesome shots to sell to the local news networks. He buys a camera and a police scanner and takes on an “intern,” Rick, a young man on the brink of homelessness who just needs a job. They learn the ins and outs of “nightcrawling” and soon are responding to police call-ins so quickly that they beat the police to the crime scenes. As Lou’s footage becomes more valuable, he becomes more obsessed with capturing the most shocking story before anyone else. Every move he makes is meticulously calculated to advance his career.gyllenhaal-nightcrawler-trailer2 He has no limits; be that blackmail, obstruction of justice, or, when there isn’t enough blood and gore for him to film, creating his own.

Lou Bloom is the devil incarnated. This was so apparent to me during the movie that I found it hard to focus on much else. I don’t mean that his actions are so reprehensible that I’m comparing him to the devil. I mean that the case could be made that the character of Lou Bloom is literally an allegory for the devil. I’m going to make that case.

Now, in order for me to lay this all out there will have to be some mild spoilers. Fair warning.

Lou is a morally ambiguous opportunist who manipulates those around him into believing they have choices, when in reality Lou is pulling all the strings. He is outwardly charming to most with the exception of the people who made the mistake of getting too close. He preys on the spiritually weak and sells himself as the person who will bring them out of their unfortunate situation.

When he hires Rick as his assistant/intern, Rick is so strapped for cash that he is essentially homeless. He is desperate for work and says he will do anything. He responded to Lou’s ad even though it had no job description. He is in the depths of despair. This reminded me of a line that Marilla Cuthbert says in Anne of Green Gables:

“To despair is to turn your back on God.”

That is what Rick has done. He’s tried honest work and it has only brought him pain. Now he’s willing to try his luck with a different crowd. He makes a deal with the devil – and he is a faithful follower.nightcrawler_poster When he later tries to negotiate the terms of their agreement, he learns the hard way that deals with the devil are one sided and you can never come out on top.

Nina, the news director Lou sells his footage to, is also a desperate soul. She has had trouble holding on to positions at other news networks in the past and is concerned about her station’s low ratings with sweeps week looming. Lou presents her with his exclusive footage and she sees him as her savior. He asks for more and more money until that is not enough. Eventually, he wants her. Lou knows that he is indispensable to Nina and uses that against her. She essentially sells her soul to the devil. As Nina and Lou become closer, she evolves into a reflection of Lou himself. She loses her concern and apprehensiveness when dealing with Lou and his methods of gathering footage. She loses herself and her identity in him.

Nightcrawler is a great film. Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance is terrifying, fascinating and just plain amazing. The score works all of the film’s best moments to their full potential. The first act starts off slow, but by the time the credits rolled, I had no idea how much time had passed. I was immersed into the story. Other people might not have had the exact takeaway that I did, (I haven’t been able to find another critic who did) but, I bet those who see this film will very likely get an unsettling feeling the next time you see footage of a car wreck on the 6 o’clock news.

  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars