Nightcrawler tells the tale of an overly driven man who stumbles upon the underground world of freelance crime journalism in Los Angeles. It is called such because this underground world is nocturnal, and these cameramen latch upon the police’s radio frequency in order to get to the reported crime first and film the macabre scenes before either the scenes are cordoned off by police or the competition get there first.
The reason these folks willingly witness such appalling scenes is that they then get to sell their footage to the highly competitive TV news stations who offer large amounts of money for the more explicit footage. This avenue of work has been silently delivering the world the excitement it yearns for years. Jake Gyllenhaal portrays the protagonist Lewis Bloom, initially a thief who stumbles upon night-crawling and grows from a novice crime-catcher to the best in the business. Lewis Bloom is undeniably one of the most calculating, conniving souls ever to appear on screen as he quietly upgrades himself at the despair of others. As he states himself: he hates people!
As he improves and gets more involved in the business, he upgrades his lifestyle – but tellingly only his laboral lifestyle, boosting his car, technology and knowledge but leaving his house, appearance and social life the same. Demonstrably, Bloom is a character dedicated to work and determined to be the best at any cost. Even though Bloom’s life is a deadly success, it is quite depressing as he revels in his loneliness and appears to be wallowing in despair yearning for a companion; something he forcefully seeks.
We also need to know more about Bloom’s past in order to understand why he retains an attitude so perverse that he will do anything for personal gain. Gyllenhaal is gently electrifying as he uses his eyes and voice to implement his authority while simultaneously hypnotising you by luring you into his lifestyle. He talks abundantly but never bores; one is always on edge wondering what this solidly reckless character is capable of. Even through his nasty faults, his character’s dedication to personal success is something to be admired.
The three key supporting role actors, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed and Bill Paxton, are all crucial to the development and understanding of Gyllenhaal’s character. Rene Russo portrays Nina, the morning news director, and through her we get to see Bloom’s desire for someone yet also witness the effect his attitude has on her. Riz Ahmed plays Bloom’s assistant Rick, and through him we get to understand the true Lewis Bloom in his dictating form. Perhaps Bill Paxton is most important, as the night-crawler that inspires Bloom to take up this job. Paxton is his foil and his benchmark.
As the story delves deeper into the underbelly of night-crawling, we voyeuristically perceive the lengths some go to to achieve money off victims’ strife and dignity. Bloom takes this to excessive levels as his eagerness alienates all those around him. An example of Gyllenhaal’s perverse nature is demonstrated when he lets his assistant decide on the amount pay-rise he receives, but when the assistant realises he could have bargained for much higher he questions Gyllenhaal’s humanity, only to countered by a shocking twist of fate which Gyllenhaal nails. This twisted aspect of Nightcrawler envelopes the film as primarily psychological as our protagonist uses his perversely deceitful mentality to subvert his place in the social ladder. He transgresses his hierarchal boundaries but is never threatened with downfall.
Nightcrawler is an investigation into the desire for power that drives people. Not only is this extremely evident in Bloom, but also Russo, whose ambition to be at the top of the news business is latent and only through Bloom’s convincing does she grow to possess the same sickening desire to do anything to keep herself in power. Gyllenhaal is almost like a vampire, his thirst for blood being his need to be supreme. Bloom starts out as a nobody searching to be someone powerful and these ambitions are what most of us suffer from, and therefore his drastic actions are just more extreme ways of attaining lifetime goals. It’s quite creepy but is downright smart!
The visuals are sleek and shiny but this is not enough to moss over the bleakness of the atmosphere in California. It is evident that life during the day is wholesomely depressing but at night the luminescence of his world permeates the screen. Aesthetically, Nightcrawler is at points exciting and pleasing, however, the drabness of the daytime world is too consuming and occasionally one wishes the night to hurry back because that is, fittingly, when Nightcrawler is at its most interesting.