Determination is the key to success, plain and simple. But what happens when determination is absolute? Chaos. In Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, we’re able to explore the seedy world of video broadcasting through the maniacal eyes of Louis Bloom, played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Armed with his camera, a police scanner, his wheels, and endless drive, Louis dives into the night.
Gilroy makes his directorial debut with this dark, disturbing film that comments on manipulation of the truth by the media, and analyzes the soul and morals of a deeply troubled man. The script is tightly wound with no real parts that drag, as the plot moves forward at a pulsing pace. Since the pace is fairly brisk, it doesn’t give too many people enough time to realize that the plot feels a little too satirical and bit extreme. The dialogue can be thought-provoking, although there are some moments that feel a bit ridiculous, yet it’s always entertaining and fantastically delivered by the cast. The camera captures the bright lights, gory deaths, and bloody ends of Los Angeles, and absorbs the disturbing eyes of Louis Bloom.
Gyllenhaal gives us a performance that could be the best of his career. Louis is a lethally determined sociopath that evolves to become a crime news hound. Is he the ideal go-getter or is he completely insane? What’s the difference? Gyllenhaal channels parts of Travis Bickle from Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, but the Bloom is not as complex. Louis is fascinating, although he’s a bit of a one-note character, but Gyllenhaal makes the most out of that one note. His sunken eyes and wiry frame make him look starving for purpose, and that deep, unsettling glimmer in his eyes is scarier than most horror movie ghouls in recent years. He becomes a man that is made of pure determination, and that makes him a monster to be reckoned with. Oscar-worthy is written all over this performance, as Gyllenhaal delivers from the very first moment he’s onscreen.
There are a few solid supporting players in this film as well, including Bill Paxton and Rene Russo. Russo plays Nina, a TV news veteran that becomes his go-to person for supplying footage. Nina is an interesting character, as she’s used to having control of her own world, yet we get to see her lose the wheel in moments. Paxton plays a competing video crime hound, and he does a solid job with the screen time he’s given.
This is a story about a boy and his camera. It’s a very disturbing story, one that gets the audience to think about just how far a man with nothing but determination is willing to go to devour the American Dream. We share Louis Bloom’s yearning of wanting to be a somebody, wanting to have purpose. The scariest part of Nightcrawler is that anyone with enough determination to relentlessly chase success at all costs has the potential to be another Louis Bloom. In reality, his essence is dwelling in all of us.