Now that the bright light of summer has receded, the worthy films are slinking out from their dark holes. From the slick surfaces of Gone Girl to the virtuosic staging of Birdman. And joining them is the creepiest dark hole dweller: Nightcrawler.
‘Nightcrawler’ is slang for independent news gatherers who listen to police scanners and vie to be first to shoot video of scenes of murder and mayhem. Those looking for a movie about a teleporting mutant or worms used for fishing will be disappointed. Instead, a sallow, sunken-eyed Jake Gyllenhaal plays the titular role. And he makes it iconic. A petty thief with a gift for gab and unscrupulous self-improvement, Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom quickly finds he has a hidden talent for the gruesome job, not least of which is figuring out how to sell the footage to the highest bidder.
The fearmongering bloodlust of local news is an easy target, and while Nightcrawler often invokes Network in its dark vision of a media landscape devoid of ethics, it is the capitalist system that is the film’s real target. Characters again and again sell their bodies and their souls to make a bargain with small-business owner Lou (short for Lucifer?) Bloom.
Written and directed by a Gilroy (Dan), produced by a Gilroy (Tony) and edited by a Gilroy (John), this film might make me think twice about attending their family Thanksgiving. As skewed as the view is toward business dealings, someone knew how to make a deal on the producing team. For a reported $10M this film has some tremendous talent, not least cinematographer Robert Elswit, who makes Los Angeles at night shimmer like firelight over a storm-tossed ocean.
Acting standouts besides Gyllenhaal include Riz Ahmed as Rick, the quasi-homeless “intern” hired by Bloom, and Rene Russo as the struggling local news producer Nina. The best thing about the performances is how they sell Gilroy’s script. You feel filthy after watching this film, but then you realize the real world isn’t much cleaner.