Jake Gyllenhaal plays Louis Bloom in Nightcrawler and in the beginning, he is a lost soul making a living stealing spare pieces of metal and selling them for change. Fate is a funny thing and one night while driving home, he comes across a terrible car accident and there shooting it with his camera is Joe Loder (Bill Paxton) who informs Lou that this will be on the morning news.
No, Lou is not a photojournalist. He is a stringer, or a Nightcrawler -- so called because of how they criss-cross the streets and highways of Los Angeles after the sun goes down for the most tantalizingly horrible footage that airs on the local news when the sun comes up. Lou has an idea and it’ll be the best one he has ever had.
After trading some stolen items for a video camera and a police scanner at a pawn shop, he is in business. But, his dream doesn’t become a reality until he gets a decent shot at a crime scene and walks into a local news station and meets producer Nina Romina (Rene Russo). She takes a look at the footage, buys it and gives him some tips as to how to make it better. And even more specifically, what types of horror on film they are looking to air. Hey, it’s what gets ratings.
Dan Gilroy wrote and directed Nightcrawler and it is a stunning piece of work that grabs the viewers by the lapels and not only doesn’t let you go, but it shakes you to your core until the credits roll. To this day, the film is still haunting me and it is a Halloween scare that is utterly and completely welcome. Gilroy paints his canvas with broad strokes that not only provide a role that allows Gyllenhaal to do the best work of his career (Oscar better call), but it also firmly puts a mirror up to our society, circa 2014. What we see -- honestly -- is not all that pretty.
Gilroy has us feeling like we’re in the scene with his star as Gyllenhaal. He carries the film with a power and command of this character that it should go down as legendary. The director puts us in the driver's seat as he races around town with his intern (it’s a delightful, and powerful storyline that will get no details divulged here) capturing the worst of society.
By the end, the audience may be asking, who’s worse? It is those who commit the crimes, the guy who films it or even crazier still -- the people who line up to watch it?
Russo meets Gyllenhaal’s brilliance, note for note. She plays her television producer with such desperation that you feel that she’s drowning and her only line of rescue comes from this man who literally walks off the street with a life preserver in the form of videotaped mayhem.
Then, there is the force of nature that is Gyllenhaal (want a tease, check out the Nightcrawler red band trailer!). It is a performance so electric that it makes you wonder where the actor ends and the character begins. He plays Lou like he’s a snake oil salesman in modern times who is as well versed as a university business professor with the verbal skills of a Harvard debate team captain.
And what is so incredible, our Nightcrawler review finds, is this character is all self taught. It is also what is so frightening. All this information is out there for another Lou, a real life Lou, to be born. And that frankly, may be the scariest and most riveting triumph of Gilroy’s fantastic film.