There is an idea of a protagonist on display in Nightcrawler and although there is no character arc for Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), there is a sort of progress. Lou starts somewhere and ends somewhere else but never at the expense of the individual that is first introduced. Lou’s arc is in his methods and his knowledge but not his outlook. As we first meet Bloom he is inexperienced, very hands-on and he is driven but although his technique and skills evolve Lou is never not driven. That’s who and all he is. Lou is driven.
Living in Los Angeles, Lou Bloom makes a passable -if illegal – living any way he can but after coming across a crashed car on a freeway finds himself turned onto the career of seedy nocturnal nightcrawling, news reporting that involves hunting out the most violent, outrageous stories and injuries to emerge from the neon gloom of the city of angels. As he proves his mettle Lou settles into mutually beneficial and increasingly commanding arrangements with Nina (Renee Russo), a no-nonsense and experienced morning news director and Rick (Riz Ahmed) a young but enthusiastic vagrant Lou takes on as an intern. Soon it becomes evident that Lou will do anything necessary to keep hold of his power and to get the best stories possible on film.
Nightcrawler all but rests on Gyllenhaal’s shoulders as he brings Bloom into a world previously unconsidered. Bloom is unlike anything we’ve seen from Gyllenhaal previously, all gaunt bone structure and greasy hair. Everything from Bloom’s erratic vocal patterns dispelling endless reeled off self-help platitudes disguised as philosophies to the unsubtle piercing gazes fixed on whatever he targets suggests that there is no humanity hidden beneath the deep wells of those corneas. The remorse and doubt, the willingness to submit that most characters exhibit is simply not present in Lou; although he understands how people function (and uses that for his own manipulative means), he joins the ranks of other intently sociopathic anti-heroes and villains in that he just feels alien.
Although Bloom is practically unrelatable by definition (anybody who sees a mirror in Bloom might want to consider seeking out professional counsel) first time director Dan Gilroy takes the bold stance of framing the narrative solely through Lou’s eyes. Rarely do we see a scene without Lou himself and despite the gritty and shadowy nature of the content, the buzzing and twangy guitar based score from James Newton Howard is distinctly uplifting, especially when Bloom succesfuly broaches the ethical and legal. It doesn’t matter how he’s doing it, this movie celebrates Lou’s achievements as he would internally. This approach certainly lacks in subtlety but then the message, that the disengaged men and women of the world who act without considering the effects of their course on others – the sociopaths of real life – are the ones who succeed, was never much of a secret.
In Nightcrawler, Gilroy and Gyllenhaal have something to be proud of. The broad strokes of the narrative might not stand on their own especially well and Bloom’s journey itself, although intently dynamic, feels perhaps a little too clean, a little to unopposed as it runs its course. Nonetheless, Bloom himself is a force to be reckoned with and the character, along with Gyllenhaal’s portrayal, will be fondly remembered for years to come.
Right up there with Bateman and Lecter, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom stands out as one of the most engaging and visceral monsters to leap off of the cinema screen yet and Nightcrawler does just enough to make him eerily believable as a product of our own twisted society.