When night descends on LA the Nightcrawlers lurk menacingly in the shadows waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. This may sound like a plot of a horror film, but Nightcrawler is a different breed of horror. In this sense Nightcrawlers are those who capture footage of crimes and accidents in the city of Angels and sell them to news broadcasters who fight tooth and nail for the highest ratings. Louis "Lou" Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) decides to get into the industry but his sociopathic personality leads him down a dangerous route.
A few months ago the beacon of top class news journalism that is Fox News uploaded the whole video of the Islamic State burning a captive, Jordanian pilot alive for the world to see. This foolhardy (releasing the video on a mainstream site is exactly what IS want) and morally questionable act makes Nightcrawler's social commentary more relevant. Fox News uploaded the video for one main reason- clicks. They wanted internet traffic from those members of the public with a morbid fascination, and Nightcrawler plays on the public's demand for death, and the news broadcasters willingness to provide such material. We, as the viewer, want to see what Louis Bloom sees, we get glimpses but never the whole picture, we never linger on a grisly sight and that leaves us demanding more.
Set mostly at night (which makes sense I guess) the darkness of the screen mirrors the darkness of the film's themes, comedy and in particular its central character, Lou. Jack Gyllenhaal is magnificent in the lead role and it is inexplicable that he was bypassed for a high number of coveted awards, but no matter as it is likely his performance will be better remembered than Cooper's and Cumberbatch's. Losing weight and looking incredibly gaunt Gyllenhaal's performance as the sociopathic, manipulative and highly intelligent Lou is an astonishingly creepy and uncomfortable one. It is foreboding to have someone so detached from empathy and their emotions and one begins to wonder how far Lou will go for the perfect story.
Gyllenhaal's excellent performance and Dan Gilroy's (director and screenwriter) disturbing and deeply dangerous central character makes Nightcrawler an intense, gripping and exciting experience. Even though we are disgusted by the media's exploiting of those in deep peril we yearn to see the bloodiest of footage and we yearn to see how far Lou will go. Gilroy and Gyllenhall will undoubtedly get most of the plaudits but Rene Russo and Riz Ahmed also superb in their supporting roles and deserve some of the credit.
In the world where journalism ethics are being questioned and the News of the World's hacking scandal played a major part in the national headlines (with the paper arguing that it was done in the public interest) it is clear that Nightcrawler's depiction of a media so devoid of empathy that it sees death and destruction of real lives as something to be sold as entertainment to pull in viewers is highly relevant.