Most of the positive reviews I’ve read of this film spend some time praising Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance (with good reason) and a little more time pointing out that the film is a smart (if a little merciless) satire of nightly TV news. The negative reviews still praise Gyllenhaal (seriously, he’s great in this), but they go on to say that the social agenda of the film–to point out the often vulturous nature of TV news–is either misguided or simply over-exaggerated.
I say, forget the social agenda and focus on the story.
The story is great.
But it certainly is dark. “Nightcrawler” has been labelled a Noir Thriller, but from early in the film, you see it leaning toward Horror.
Gyllenhaal plays resourceful psychopath, Lou Bloom, who spends his nights stealing everything from copper wire to manhole covers, and then selling the materials to scrap yards. From the start, I was charmed by Bloom’s tenacity. He’s a “go-getter” who knows he wants something more in life, but isn’t sure where to focus his attention.
Until he stumbles upon a terrible car wreck one night, and watches as a van of videographers arrives before the cops and begins to tape the scene. Rather than Horror, Bloom’s face lights up with curiosity. He watches, mesmerized, as these men film the blazing cars, gliding in to get a shot of the victims, who are still in harm’s way.
Shortly after, Bloom trades a stolen bike for cash and a camcorder, and sets out to build his own video business, establishing a relationship with Nina Romina (Rene Russo) who buys his very first clip–a critical gunshot victim. One of the most fascinating aspects of this film, and what I think lends it a disquieting “Horror” feeling, is that no one ever directly addresses Bloom’s apathy in the face of the violent scenes he captures with his camera. Instead, we get the terrified looks in their eyes as he goes about his business, smiling and moving from one scene to the next with a child’s enthusiasm and energy.
By the end of the film there is no doubt that Bloom is “off his rocker;” and it’s hard to maintain your respect for his tenacity without feeling guilty (unless you, too, are a psychopath, I suppose). But I don’t want to spoil any surprises for the handful of you out there who haven’t seen this 2014 film yet. Give it a watch and tell me what you think. Could it be labelled Horror (assuming you wanted to label it)?