I didn’t see Nightcrawler coming at all (having no idea what it was about), so it blew me away. An intelligent sociopath by the name of Louis Bloom drops in (to L.A.) out of nowhere (like an alien visiting earth) and uses his self-taught (online and TV) skills to turn the world into his own set of toys. We never get any background on Bloom, other than that he lives alone and has received no formal education. Frankly, I don’t want to know any more than that. It all reminded me a bit of Ryan Gosling’s character in Drive.
Anyway, Bloom decides that collecting video footage from deadly accidents and crime scenes is the life for him. Fortunately for him, he runs into a TV news producer who is almost as ruthless as he is and who tells him to focus on suburban violence perpetrated by minorities, because that’s the kind of fear-mongering that will keep the rich white folks in L.A. glued to their TV screens.
Yeah, what we’ve got here is a brilliant indictment of the news industry, the people who decide, based strictly on the bottom dollar (i.e. ratings game) what viewers get to see when they turn on the news first thing in the morning or after they get home from work (“if it bleeds, it leads!”).
To do this, writer/director Dan Gilroy (I can’t believe this is his first film!) has created an incredibly dark and cold masterpiece, built around the astonishing performance of Jake Gyllenhaal (Bloom), who deserves an Oscar for this. The screenplay is a work of genius, especially when the perfect dialogue is delivered by a flawless Gyllenhaal. Rene Russo is also terrific and terrifying as the TV producer. Even Bill Paxton, of whom I’m not a big fan, is exactly right in his role as a rival videographer. And then there’s Riz Ahmed, who is wonderful as Bloom’s assistant, and the small but vital role played by actress Michael Hyatt as Detective Fronteiri.
The late-night cinematography is gorgeous, the music is just right and the direction is as tight as it can be. Every awful scene (and they’re pretty much all awful) is a work of art. Normally, I would come down hard on a film for being as cold and dark as Nightcrawler is, complaining vociferously about its lack of heart. But sometimes a film needs this kind of cold darkness to make its point. And it makes its point very well indeed. I debated for a long time about awarding yet another **** in 2014 (especially since I know there are still a few great films to come), but it deserves no less. So **** it is. My mug is up (but remember, that is NOT a recommendation unless you can handle cold dark (and somewhat violent) films).