Nightcrawler should be seen in a dark, crowded cinema. The beyond ominous soundtrack, juxtaposition of the news room’s bright lights and the city streets’ darkness, the suspense of a man unraveling… it’d be best on a big screen with surround sound. Instead, I watched Dan Gilroy’s film on my couch on a Saturday afternoon. I was too cozy. And it’s important to note that with the current eye on police brutality and the recent, gruesome Virginia reporters’ shooting, Nightcrawler is difficult to watch, even in the comfort of your own home. No, the film isn’t about officers or reporters exactly, but they’re in every scene since Nightcrawler tells the story of Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), a man desperate for a job who discovers his love of filming local crimes for Los Angeles news stations. He allies with KWLA and its News Director, Nina Romina (Rene Russo), promising to deliver whatever he can find to her first– the more gory and unsettling, the better.
Lou’s magnetism is a rare treat, and that can be credited to both Gilroy and Gyllenhaal. He’s unnerving from the start, thanks to his petty crimes and baby man bun. But those strange qualities lead to troubling actions, when he begins to sexually threaten Nina, tamper with crime scenes, withhold information from the police. There are moments shot so beautifully, particularly one in which Lou sits at the news desk and we see, through both the lens of the news station and the film itself, him staring directly into the camera. He knows his footage is seen by thousands. Can he control those thousands like he can Nina and his “intern,” Rick (a heartbreaking Riz Ahmed)?
The best part of this film is its script, which was unsurprisingly nominated for Best Original Screenplay last year (though it unsurprisingly lost since competition was fierce: let’s take a moment and remember Birdman, Boyhood, Foxcatcher, and The Grand Budapest Hotel). Early in the movie Lou says, “I’ve been told I’m persistent,” and that line gains humor through Nightcrawler‘s runtime. He consistently speaks like a self-help book, spewing motivational tidbits whether he’s applying for a job, coaching Rick, or running from a home invasion crime scene. He never gives up and pushes everyone around him to their weakest point. The strongest scene isn’t even an action one, but nearly seven minutes of pure dialogue between Lou and Nina in a Mexican restaurant. I wanted to be like Lou, practically unable to blink, just so I could see it all. Like I said, watching at home the movie won’t keep you wide awake, but after? You can bet you’ll have a bit of a harder time falling asleep that night.