Twitter Plot Summary: Lou Bloom spots an opportunity to work as a self-employed nightcrawler, filming accidents etc for local news channels.
X-Men fans, try not to look too disappointed. Rather than being a solo movie starring everyone’s favourite “BAMF” powered mutant, Nightcrawler is a completely different beast entirely. Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an intensely unlikeable person, a common thief who steals and scrounges for a living until he happens upon an accident on the freeway, which is captured on film by a couple of freelancers who regularly swoop on such accidents. Bloom sees an opportunity to get involved in this business and the line between seeking genuinely shocking news footage and carefully arranging accidents in order to make a quick buck is soon blurred.
Gyllenhaal is pitch perfect as Bloom, a man distant from the emotional ties of everyday existence and capable of seeing through all of the lies and nonsense that dictates how our lives run. It’s a performance that is deserving of attention when awards season rolls around, thoroughly invested in the character (does Bloom ever sleep?) and portraying him in such a way that the audience loves to hate him and are keen to see exactly what he does next. In cinema’s long list of unlikeable protagonists, Bloom is destined to appear in the top 10.
In supporting roles are Rene Russo as the television executive who chooses to buy Bloom’s footage, a woman who finds herself desperate to cling onto her job and ensure the station receives ratings by any means necessary. Riz Ahmed, best known previously for his role as a wannabe terrorist in Four Lions, is Rick, a man with no prospects taking a job offered by Bloom to work as camera man and navigational assistant. Finally there’s Bill Paxton as an older nightcrawler who despite being in the business for years hasn’t managed to get beyond owning a beat up old van and just scraping by.
This is yet another film where gorgeous cinematography brings Bloom’s world to life, Robert Elswit’s work in this area is on par with the likes of Roger Deakins and Wally Pfister. Very rarely do we see anything set in daylight hours, a permanent twilight setting is the standard, albeit not to the same extent as Dark City. At its heart of course is a satirical comment on the invasion of the media into all aspects of the modern world, most notably by keeping the characters with a moral objection to events conveniently sidelined. There is a vein of blackly comic humour running throughout, either underlined by Bloom’s attitude towards other people or through the interactions between Bloom and Rick. Often the humour is so dark you may find yourself feeling guilty for laughing. It’s at this point you know the script has done its job.
The subject matter is disturbing but remains engaging regardless. You’d be hard pressed to find a more unpleasant, morally objectionable subject for a mainstream thriller, but it’s this and Gyllenhaal’s performance that mark out its selling points, and raises legitimate questions about how we absorb media content, and the moral lines we are willing to cross in order to be “entertained.”