I wanted to see a movie, but the choices were slim today. When I saw that “Nightcrawler” earned 95% approval rating on Flixster, I was pretty encouraged. That Stephen Hawking movie got a 91%, so I figured this movie was going to be better. And it was. And it has creeped me out forever.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a petty thief who has found his life calling in documenting the crime and accidents of Los Angeles as a nighttime freelance cameraman. But he is a psychopath who is driven to advance in the field, and his amorality is the perfect conduit to make that happen. Gyllenhaal is so believable as a psychopath that I don’t think I can watch his movies any more.
For the role, Jake Gyllenhaal lost some weight, and while I was thinking about gaunt Christian Bale in The Machinist, Gyllenhaal's skeletor-effect transforms him into a perpetually hungry, sunken-eyed madman who reminds us that we validate his actions and we participate in his crimes as we watch him. I found myself looking all around the theater during every single scene, trying to avoid looking directly at Gyllenhaal and his unsettling character. If an actor can win an Oscar for evoking the heebie jeebies and cucuys in his viewers, it’s Gyllenhaal in this movie.
Serious Social Critique
More important than the quality of the acting is the storyline, which clearly serves as a social critique of the sensationalistic and unethical nature of news reporting. Rene Russo’s character Nina, as the producer of the morning news, tells Bloom that to be successful, he needs to film urban crime seeping into the suburbs, particularly if the perps are people of color and the victims are white. (!) The film reminds us as viewers again and again how the news is distorted and transformed into entertainment to earn higher ratings, a fine reminder in the wake of the news coverage of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and even Ebola.