If it bleeds, it leads. People my age and younger really only remember this kind of sensationalizing of news. We grew up on the violence of it all, seeing or hearing about gruesome deaths on a near daily basis. I won’t even get into the lasting psychological effects of this kind of supersaturation of brutalization, because I don’t have to. All you need to know is a two hour film away in Nightcrawler.
Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is looking for a job. Any job will do. He’s self motivated, self taught, and really just looking to get his foot in the door. He’s willing to start anywhere, get paid anything, and do anything. We know nothing about his past other than he has no problems stealing (and killing if you pick up on the hint) to get what he wants. Naturally, the job of nightcrawling (gathering videos of night time crimes to sell to major news networks) appeals to him. After witnessing Joe Loder (Bill Paxton), an experienced nightcrawler in action, he quickly became interested/obsessed with the profession.
His success, compared to his competition, is due to his complete lack of morals or ethics, willing to get the gruesome and gory, up-close footage regardless of circumstances. His buyer is head graveyard shift news administrator Nina (Rene Russo). As Louis and Nina’s business relationship becomes more exclusive, Lou demands more “benefits,” and Nina agrees as long as Lou delivers better, grislier footage. If you can’t catch the news, might as well make it. Lou adopts a more aggressive recording method that involves causing news just so he can be there to record it. Remember, if it bleeds, it leads.
The topic is one that we are at least vaguely familiar with: the way news is presented. I’m not talking about bias or slant, but journalistic integrity. The current trend of distributing a majority of air time to over-sensationalized stories, while ignoring pressing matters that actually are important to a greater number of the population (local and state government matters). Nightcrawler not only reminds us of these occurrences, but also shows us the background machinations leading to them. The overzealous TV veteran Nina, who is only concerned with ratings, and the over-ambitious Lou, who has a set plan for his future and refuses to let anything or anyone stop him.
The gritty noir sleekness of California’s underbelly is enough to engross you in its carnage. The shady subject matter and intense situations are only accentuated and held together by a chilling performance by Jake Gyllenhaal. He perfectly channels the intensity and nuances needed for this mysterious, sociopathic character. This is Gyllenhaal’s best performance of the past few years, and is easily one of the best leading performances in a film this year.
Nightcrawler showcases the electric talent of Jake Gyllenhaal in this dark tale about limitless ambition, greed, and the state of affairs in the American news industry. The way the film simultaneously draws you in and repels you will leave you in an uncomfortable state of intrigue. Like a gruesome, televised accident, you will be repulsed at the subject matter, but lured in by the thrill of it all.
RATING: ★★★★★★★★★(9/10 stars)
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