Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a socially awkward man who has a hard time finding a job. To make ends meet, he steals metal to turn in for the recycling value. He is persistent in trying to find a job, but no one will hire him.
After stopping at a car accident on the way home one night, he realizes he could make money by filming news stories and selling the footage to news stations. He picks up a cheap camcorder and a police scanner and goes to work. After selling his first video, he decides he should step up his game.
Facing competition from veteran “stringer” Joe Loder (Bill Paxton), Louis hires another underemployed man, Rick (Riz Ahmed) to be his assistant. Rick, not exactly being the employable type either, isn’t the best assistant. He is also a little frightened by Louis’ tactics. Nonetheless, Louis, who has taught himself everything he thinks he needs to know about running a business by studying on the internet, teaches Rick how to be a better employee.
As Louis becomes more well-versed in filming news stories, he uses his pull to advance his personal and professional life, using his connection with Nina (Rene Russo), the news director with whom he has been working exclusively. Louis becomes obsessed with his footage and will do anything to get the perfect shot.
Nightcrawler is a not so subtle commentary on the sensationalistic news community. They are out for footage that will grab the viewers’ attention and keep them coming back for more. It doesn’t matter what the footage is or how it is obtained. Only that they have it first. And the more gory, the better.
This film is perhaps the creepiest I have seen of Jake Gyllenhaal. His portrayal of Louis is almost terrifying. It is obvious that Louis is somewhere on the autism spectrum. From his social awkwardness, to his obsessiveness, to his lack of understanding of social norms. However, unlike other films that feature an autistic character, Louis is not played off as some kind of goofy character to get laughs. Yes, it takes the portrayal to the other extreme, but his personality “quirks” are essential to his character. Jake nails his character so perfectly, my wife turned to me halfway through the film and said, “I feel like I need to watch a romantic comedy with Jake to cleanse my palate.”
The other actors don’t disappoint, either. Rene’s desperation to keep her job on the “vampire shift” of the lowest rated news show really comes through. And Riz Ahmed, with whom I was not familiar with prior to this movie, excels as the nervous, naïve partner to Louis. I think the film could have used a little more Bill Paxton, though.
The suspense and tension build throughout the film as Louis goes deeper and deeper to get the ultimate shot. While it’s not necessarily an action-heavy movie, the pace is brisk and keeps you on edge. You also never really know where the film will go next and just how far Louis will go.
Nightcrawler is definitely an interesting movie that doesn’t really leave you wanting more. You leave with almost a disgust at how the news gets the footage that so many can’t get enough of. Don’t miss this one.