The American Dream. The Pursuit of Happiness. The fact that you believe that no matter who you are, where you came from, or what stands in front of you, there is the ability to reach the top due to hard work and diligence. This is the idea of the American Dream and it is what drives Louis Bloom, a nightcrawler who is looking to reach the top of the television broadcast world one dead body or car crash at a time.
Nightcrawler is never afraid to push the limits that the audience think are set for its protagonist, Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), and usually goes above and beyond what you think this man will go. We meet Louis as he steals fencing in order to sell it off and possibly secure a job at a warehouse. But the foreman can read right through him and his scaly personality and rejects his services, which is something that Louis never has happen again over the course of the movie.
On his way back he runs into a car crash and watches Joe Loder (Bill Paxton) in action as he takes his camera and grabs shots of the cops as they pull someone from the wreckage. Loder won’t give Louis a job either, but he does plant the idea of nightcrawling into his brain and stars the wild ride that the film will take audiences on.
Writer/director Dan Gilroy crafts the film to look and feel so real, but the reality of this film also seems so distant and unbelievable. The freelance nightcrawlers seem like emotionless drones, as do the broadcast journalists that they sell their work to. It is all about making people tune in at eleven and to do that, you have to have the most eye-popping and gross-out content so people are talking about it the next day.
Louis strikes up a relationship with Nina Romina (Rene Russo), who is the news director of one of Los Angeles’ lowest rated news stations. She begrudgingly takes the first work of Louis’ and enjoys his can-do attitude enough to invite him to bring her whatever he has next. This brings Louis to employ Rick (Riz Ahmed), or the audience’s voyager moving forward.
Rick is hit with command after command from Louis as he expects his employee to be on the same level as he is. Gyllenhaal is hypnotic in the role, channeling his best impression of Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho not because he is a psychopathic serial killer, but through the way he uses his intensity to rule of people and at times almost seems like a superhuman personality.
It is noted that the actor lost a considerable amount of weight to take on the role, and in this case the weight-loss works as Gyllenhaal’s body almost pops whenever he moves it. His eyes bug out, his face is more expressive and he seems like a completely different person than some of his recent fantastic work such as Prisoners or Enemy.
Outside of Gyllenhaal, the resonating factor of this film is how far Bloom goes to get the best shots and what the journalists and Nina will do to take what Louis gives them and make it newsworthy. This takes center-stage in a scene that Gilroy allows to play out completely as the viewers watch the two newscasters go play-by-play through a murder scene that Bloom videotaped just seconds after the assailants left.
Nightcrawler is haunting, yet there is a load of dark comedy that lightens up the unbearable acts that Louis is performing. While at times, you stare horrified at the choices he makes; in the end, you, much like Nina, look past it because what he has (or how he acts) is just too damn good to pass up.