As human beings we are drawn to the grotesque. Why else does traffic build up on the opposite side of a car accident? We slow down our own car to get a glimpse of the horrific accident that by lucky chance struck them and not us.
“Nightcrawler” presents thought-provoking issues by showing the precarious balance between maintaining journalistic integrity and satisfying the public’s perverse attraction to bloody crime. In this business, cold crime and victims are converted into paychecks.
Set in the rough atmosphere of Los Angeles, Jake Gyllenhaal plays the desperate, yet cunning Lou Bloom, who stumbles into the city’s crime journalism scene by becoming a nightcrawler, which is a reference to the way independent cameramen work at night, migrating from one crime scene to the next.
Bloom starts from the bottom in freelance filming of crimes that he sells to a local TV news station. The station’s news director, Nina ( Renee Russo), pairs with Bloom to air his gory footage on the nightly news.
The graphic scenes shot by Bloom up the news channel ratings, earning Nina prestige and offering Bloom higher bargaining power for pay for his film. Both Nina and Bloom profit from casualties and the public’s propensity to consume such horrific media.
Bloom’s urgent will to succeed leads to questionable moral acts. When Bloom beats the police to crime scenes and is questioned as to why his shirt is stained with the victim’s blood, the plot thickens and leaves the audience members’ pulses racing.
“Nightcrawler’s” best feature is its superb acting. Clad in sunglasses and a half-ponytail, Gyllenhaal gives the performance of his career. Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Bloom carries the movie as the audience is entranced by the manipulative personality of Gyllenhaal’s character.
Bloom proves to be a memorable character with quotes such as, “I like to say that if you see me, you are having the worst day of your life” reverberating in the mind viewer’s long after the final scene fades.
The characterization of Bloom shifts in the eyes of the audience, as it is uncertain whether to feel sympathy for the lonely character or disdain for his heartless actions. But what is certain is the Gyllenhaal’s execution of his haunting role.
Gyllenhaal’s stunning performance is complemented by dramatic special effects. Car chases, mutilated cadavers and gunfire abound in the movie, and amp up the action and suspense.
“Nightcrawler” effectively incorporates mystery, sensational acting, and an action-packed plot to create an adrenaline-pumping thriller.