Jake Gyllenhaal goes all-in for psychological ‘Nightcrawler’ role


Photo Courtesy IMDb

Jake Gyllenhaal goes all-in for psychological ‘Nightcrawler’ role

By Film Critic

On the morning news, viewers see footage of crimes, accidents and the aftermath of some of the most painful things a person can experience. But what are the costs some people pay to get that gruesome footage? Screenwriter and first-time director Dan Gilroy’s “Nightcrawler” is a gripping thriller about the ruthless multimedia journalists who strive to be the first to get the footage. 

Set in Los Angeles, a man named Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) searches for a job with little success. After witnessing the aftermath of a car accident, he finds a new career: nightcrawling. The job entails driving through the city streets at night with a police scanner, listening intently for calls that might be newsworthy. Bloom travels to the accidents and records the outcome, then sells it to local news stations for broadcasting. He begins working alone, using only a rinky-dink video camera and a beat-up car. After hiring an intern, Rick Garcia (Riz Ahmed), Bloom’s business begins to flourish until they capture footage of a home invasion in progress, a venture that sets off a deadly chain of events.

The film’s standout performance was from Gyllenhaal’s electrifying portrayal of Bloom, who appears highly intelligent, persistent and articulate, but is an emotionless sociopath who will do anything to succeed. He is a natural-born salesman, selling himself to anyone who will listen. Bloom remains optimistic even after setbacks and only looks at how he can improve productivity. He frequently repeats his motto, “If you want to win the lottery, you have to make the money to buy a ticket.” However, he goes to great lengths to get the best shot possible, even if it means altering a crime scene before the police arrive. Eventually, Bloom begins to blur the lines between journalist and participant.  

Cinematographer Robert Elswit, known for his Oscar-winning work on “There Will Be Blood,” uses dark lighting in nearly every scene to enhance Gyllenhaal’s performance. Bloom is always shrouded in darkness, accentuating his gaunt face and striking eyes, and making him more ghoul than man. His bulging eyes alone light up the screen like beams, commanding the audience’s attention from start to finish. 

As disturbing as the characters and story are, the film is funny in an uncomfortable way. Bloom is always looking for ways to improve his business, and his emotionless dialogue and unwavering desire to be successful helps lighten the mood. Later in the film, Bloom and Garcia run from a dangerous crime scene. Garcia failed to help Bloom, so he explains, “You might have learned a new skill that would make you more useful and put us on a track toward growth!” It is a dark situation, but Bloom’s acidic commentary breaks up the bleakness. 

Bloom sells his footage to Nina Romina (Rene Russo), a morning television news director who is on the verge of being fired unless she can get her show’s ratings up. Neither Bloom nor Romina have any qualms about releasing the home invasion footage, and the tack of the film shifts to revolve around Bloom’s ethics. The media’s presentation of his videos is controversial, as the newscasters hype up the anemic threat of the situation. Even Romina’s famous motto is controversial, despite its prevalence in the journalism industry: “If it bleeds, it leads.” In a sense, Bloom’s reality is the manifestation of the danger in that adage, raising quiet speculation about the true value of violence coverage.  

“Nightcrawler” is filled with immoral characters, visceral imagery and a gripping story. Gyllenhaal’s transformative performance will leave the audience breathless.