How far would you go to realize the American Dream? This one question becomes the driving force behind the new film ‘Nightcrawler’ directed by Dan Gilroy. In his directorial debut, Gilroy crafts a dark and daring character study that comes closer than any film in recent memory to capturing that same kind of genius that resonated within Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’. Set in modern day Los Angeles we (the audience) are introduced to the film’s protagonist Louis Bloom. Off the bat, we’re shown that Bloom doesn’t lead himself by the same moral compass that most human beings are given. In his first scene he lies, steals, and assaults someone in order to achieve what he wants. That’s three felonies in five minutes; well maybe lying doesn’t constitute a felony, but trust me when I say that that’s only the beginning.
Louis Bloom is a man of enormous ambition and no scruples to claim to. At the outset of the film, we find him looking for a job. Given his slightly sociopathic demeanor it’s no surprise that he finds trouble getting hired. However, fate intervenes and he is given a glimpse into a new world, that of the Nightcrawler. While driving along the interstate, Bloom comes across a fiery car crash. He leaves his vehicle, less likely to help than to watch as two cops attempt to help a civilian from the inferno. As he stands there, another vehicle rolls up and two men with cameras begin filming the whole event trying to capture every grim detail. This is how we are introduced to Joe Loder, Bloom’s foreseeable rival of the film. Loder is an ambulance chaser, someone who makes money off the carnage of other people’s misfortunes. Loder explains how he and his crew scour the city after nightfall looking for reports of car accidents, muggings gone bad, and overall violence related crimes in order to cut footage of and sell to the highest paying news channel.
Loder explains that in order to get into the game, Lou will need to acquire the right kinds of equipment. Specifically a police frequency scanner and a mid-tier camcorder at the very least. Luckily for Bloom, he’s a go-getter and comes into possession of both items. In no time at all Bloom becomes ingratiated with one of the producers of a local news casting network when he brings her documentation of a man victim of multiple gunshots. She tells Bloom to bring her more footage of this nature. The more grisly the imagery, the more his pay rate will rise. Bloom hires himself an intern and together they begin to rise to the top of the Nightcrawler ladder. The only question is: How far will they go once ethics and morals have been left far behind?
It may not sound like it, but ‘Nightcrawler’ is by far one of the best films of the year. It serves as a dark commentary on the role of modern day media, as well as a reflection upon the human psyche. It’s held together and lifted up by a stellar script and an exemplar cast including Bill Paxton, Rene Russo, and Riz Ahmed. Uniting all of these facets are Jake Gyllenhaal and director/writer Dan Gilroy. Gyllenhaal gives perhaps the best performance of his career. It would be hard to believe now that any other actor could have played this part. He brings the character of Louis Bloom alive on screen with such tenacity, that it’s difficult to not want to root for him; even when our own moral centers are screaming at us to stop watching. As I stated earlier ‘Nightcrawler’ serves as the very first film for director Dan Gilroy. Previously Dan Gilroy worked as a screenplay writer, penning scripts such as that of ‘The Bourne Legacy’ and ‘Reel Steel’. If his name sounds familiar then it’s because he is the younger brother of Tony Gilroy, famed screenwriter responsible for the Jason Bourne trilogy, as well as for ‘Michael Clayton’ and ‘State of Play’.
‘Nightcrawler’ is at times a compelling and pulse-pounding thriller. At others a scathing look at the realm of sensational journalism. ‘Nightcrawler’ has rightfully earned every merit it has and will go on to receive. It takes darkly inaccessible subject matter and makes it impossible to turn away from. For aspiring filmmakers and even avid film goers looking to take away something, ‘Nightcrawler’ is a prime example of craft and even what one might argue as to what modern day horror movies should be. Don’t miss this lurid and electrifying masterpiece of filmmaking.