2 November 2014 | FilmMuscle
Crossing the Line Through Sheer Ambition
Whereas Gone Girl explored the wild misconceptions and dangerous influence of the media, Nightcrawler explores another even more corrupted facet of the entity's nature: shamelessly capitalizing on the popularity of crime television—violence, murder, blood, gunshots. The program's ratings continue heightening along with the network's desire for even more thrilling footage. Nightcrawler follows Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) as he climbs up the ladder of success and builds a career through rash ambition. Lacking a formal education and adequate work experience, he's truly a victim of the unfair modern job market/unemployment. So, he says "screw it" and takes matters into his own hands, acting with sheer desperation and eagerness to reach that level of power and affluence America so often glorifies.
After personally witnessing a car accident on the freeway as snooping reporters close in, the scene lights a fire inside Louis and inspires him to give the job a try. Soon afterwards, he purchases a camcorder and a radio scanner, persistently discovering new crime scenes to capture on tape as intimately as he possibly can. Thus, his extensive coverage grabs the attention of a morning news channel, and a special relationship forms therein: a consistent supply of new gruesome/entertaining crime footage for an increasing sum of money. As we see the frightening lengths Louis is willing to strive towards in order to prove himself as a proficient workingman and elevate his value above and beyond, this grave thriller intermittently surprises us with effectively mocking twisted humor, but the incredibly deranged human psychology on display keeps us startled and tense throughout regardless.
Gyllenhaal arguably gives the absolute best performance of his career in a role that substantially differentiates from his earlier work. His creepy, relaxed composure hides the true inner scariness and ferocity. Publicly, Louis is a professional, polite, and upstanding citizen who's just looking to work hard. Privately, he violently yells in front of a mirror until he shatters it, as well as blackmails a TV news director to further his career. Rene Russo also impresses as the morning news director—almost as daring in her lust for more provocative violent imagery—who's beguiled by this eccentric and only (mistakenly) fuels Louis' psychotic drive. In addition, Riz Ahmed's Rick serves as Louis' gullible, clueless "employee" who just wants to escape the dispiriting state of homelessness and finally earn a living, completely unaware of the perilous and unethical situations he'll be cast in along his employer's selfishly ruthless path.
This isn't the kind of film whose quality solely relies on a central performance because the narrative is just as cruelly gripping. Unfortunately, the film industry is stocked with so many safe crowdpleasers and compromising thrillers that it's wholly refreshing to see these uncompromisingly grim, chilling psychological character studies occasionally pop up. The film becomes more morally repulsive and disturbing as it proceeds while the satire on the American Dream and merciless ambition becomes that much more brutal. Nightcrawler is deeply unsettling as well as it is honest in its portrayal—Los Angeles is actually the perfect setting, beautifully shot in its alluring and deceptive nighttime scenery. After all, it is probably the #1 destination for the unrelentingly audacious and reckless individuals of the nation in search of a prosperous career.