- RatedPG13 /GenreCrime, Drama
We have had our fair share of movies about journalism, even dating back to the 1940s with Alfred Hitchcock’s 'Foreign Correspondent', the classic masterpiece 'All The President’s Men', and in recent years, 'State of Play', 'Good Night, and Good Luck' as well as 'Shattered Glass'.
Yet, none of them are quite in the same blood-curdling league as 'Nightcrawler', which we’re banking on as this generation's "it" movie about journalism ethics by first-time (and definitely first-rate) director Dan Gilroy.
‘Nightcrawler’ is all skin-and-bones, and we’re not just talking about Jake Gyllenhaal’s skeletal transformation.
At the beginning, Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) resorts to violence and steals objects as a means of survival (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)
Louis Bloom or "Lou" (Gyllenhaal) is an unemployed man who is trying to make ends meet in Los Angeles by stealing and reselling items.
Just as his desperation peaks, he stumbles upon a traffic collision site, where several freelance reporters termed "nightcrawlers" are hemming in to get the best (or rather, goriest) footage for sale.
A light bulb goes off in his head, and Lou immediately gets the show on the road by trading a stolen racing bike for camera equipment.
His first "assignment" is a car-jacking incident, where he captures grotesque close-ups of the wounded victim.
Lou and Nina Romina (Rene Russo), a broadcast station director, forms a partnership that briskly suffers a turn for the ominous (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)
Much to the delight of a TV station director, Nina Romina (Rene Russo), Lou trades in the footage for his first paycheck. Nina advises Lou that the cream of crime journalism reports involves victims who are rich, white and cocooning in safe neighbourhoods.
Now an official nightcrawler with Nina as his primary client, Lou eavesdrops on police radio codes and expands his portfolio with the help of his new and brutally underpaid intern, Rick (Riz Ahmed).
With no ethical bone in his body, Lou doesn’t hesitate to break the rules; blatantly turning a blind eye to "Do Not Cross" tapes, running red lights without even batting an eyelid, breaking into victims' houses for classified footage, and moving dead bodies around at the crime scene for "framing" purposes.
In Lou's words: "We’re professionals, he's a sale."
Lou aims to arrive at crime scenes before the police and repeatedly breaks the law to obtain gut-churning footage for a heftier paycheck each time (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)
There is no doubt about his sociopathic behaviour. And with Gyllenhaal’s hollowed cheeks, protruding eye sockets, lifeless eyes topped off with a taut smile, he certainly looks the part.
Gyllenhaal is undeniably committed to the role, and it shows in his dedicated performance.
Lou's sociopathy is even more apparent in his relationships, or lack thereof, with Rick and Nina. He keeps them at arm’s length, and then goes berserk when he fails to get a bang for his buck.
What’s especially unnerving is when Lou puts on his professionally amiable and convincingly humane facade only when he spots business opportunities. Think Patrick Bateman in 'American Psycho', a wealthy investment banker by day, murderer by night, but poorer and with less blood on his hands. But even that becomes debatable as he witnesses crimes as a chilling bystander.
“I'll never ask you to do anything that I wouldn't do myself,” Lou says to Rick, all while putting his intern in life-endangering situations (Photo: Golden Village Pictures)
Gilroy ditches the traditional character arc, presenting Lou as an unstable character through and through, yet conveys the nasty reality loud and clear to the audience: "If it bleeds, it leads."
How far will one go and how much empathy will one toss out the window just to have a story that sells?
You look at Lou with disgust, yet he is the person you could be, making you aware of the vile temptations hovering close, and you hope you will have the courage to slip down a ring or more if your climb up the career ladder leads to that.
'Nightcrawler' opens 4 December 2014