Movie Review: Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler tells the disturbing tale of Lou Bloom, an unemployed but ambitious man who discovers the world of crime journalism. Bloom quickly realizes that not only is he great at it, but he also loves it, possibly too much. Bloom’s own criminal tendencies clash and meld with his journalism career, inciting a twisted and thrilling plot. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Bloom. In Nightcrawler, Gyllenhaal delivers one of the best performances of his career, emphasized by the physical transformation he underwent for the role. The actor supposedly lost around 35 pounds by starving and overworking himself. The usually affable and charming actor undergoes a noticeable mental transformation. In the film, Bloom isn’t very good at interacting with others. In interviews, director Dan Gilroy has noted that both he and Gyllenhaal took inspiration for the character of Bloom from wild coyotes. Both Bloom and coyotes are solitary, nocturnal hunters who gain most of their sustenance from scavenging roadkill, yet always manage to look terrifyingly hungry. Gyllenhaal is able to balance a constant hunger and sense of self-preservation with a hidden underbelly of sheer danger and violence in a quite remarkable way. Bloom’s interactions with his “intern” Rick, played by Riz Ahmed, feel like they could turn violent at any moment. What’s more, Bloom’s manipulation of Nina, played wonderfully by the director’s wife Rene Russo, is endlessly frightening and disconcerting. Though almost all of the actors give strong performances, they are overshadowed by the sheer strength of Gyllenhaal’s. Russo plays opposite of Gyllenhaal, with great visual shifts in body language and delivery as the story progresses. As the power dynamics and dependency shifts between Bloom and Nina, so too does Russo’s chemistry with Gyllenhaal. The other relationship that makes it through to the third act is Bloom’s connection to Rick. I was underwhelmed by Ahmed’s performance throughout the film. He rode along with actual stringers in preparation for the role, but as far as I can tell it didn’t do much good. Rick is supposed to act as audience stand-in—disgusted by Bloom’s actions, but dependent on him for his own sake. Unfortunately, it is hard to feel any connection to Rick mostly due to Ahmed’s portrayal. Nightcrawler is ultimately a morality tale, attempting to crucify the 24-hour news circus and the audiences who force it to function the way it does. The film reminds the audience that many of the stories that lead the news are what they are because they are constructed based on popularity ratings. The film is disturbing and unsettling, and left me physically upset after completion. It’s a masterfully well-done film that will almost certainly garner an Oscar nod for Gyllenhaal. If not for the failings of such a key character as Rick, Nightcrawler would be a nearly perfect film.  

Rating: 4/5