Directed and written by: Dan Gilroy
Edited by: John Gilroy
Composed by: James Newton Howard
Films are often so much more than what is on the surface – while the characters, plot and cinematography are all vital parts of the film, the directors are often trying to convey a message of sorts to the audience. They are offering a commentary on a subject that is relevant to the current society, no matter when the film is set.
Nightcrawler is an American thriller which details the sociopathic rise of aspiring journalist, Louis Bloom, as he begins his own news video production company in the heart of Los Angeles. He hires intern Rick to help him along the way but soon realises that he is willing to do whatever it takes to get a good story.
The film is a commentary on the corruption of the news service specifically in America and how the pressures on society can have a significant impact on the individuals there. Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) encompasses all of these attributes in his character which the audience gets a close look into.
I know I have spoken time and time again about how a film needs a strong character arc in order to be successful – but for this film, I’m going to make an exception because there is a strong character arc but not in the conventional way that we would expect. From the moment we meet Lou, it clear that he is morally ambiguous to say the least – he is a thief who sells scrap metal in order to make some money but is eager to reach full employment when he asks if there is an internship available at the scrapyard. When he stumbles across an accident and meets a stringer, Joe Loder (Bill Paxton), he discovers that that could be a route he could try for his own career.
Often, unemployment is looked upon by governments as a sign of laziness, even though it is often the laws put in place by them that forces people into unemployment when they are more than capable of completing the job. This is the case for Lou; even though he isn’t conventionally academically inclined, he is always looking for ways to improve himself through self-help articles and online courses. When he decides to become a stringer, he puts his all into it. But it is the pressures of society that forced him to become a stringer in the first place, even if he sees it as a blessing in disguise. Especially when the news director, Nina Romina (Rene Russo), encourages him to keep bringing his gory footage.
Enter his distorted mirror image, Rick (Riz Ahmed). I call him this because he is alike Lou in a lot of ways – he is unemployed, willing to do most things for some money and has generally been pushed over by the society around him. The difference is that he doesn’t have the same cold, vapid nature that Lou does – when he realises that Lou has set it up that they’re going to watch a shoot-out take place in the diner, he begins to question the mentality and morality of his boss. In the end, Lou punishes him for this by filming him die when he is caught by a bullet.
Louis Bloom is everything that is wrong with the American news corporation; he doesn’t care how bad he looks or how he dehumanises those that he is filming so long as it sells and makes a good story. In recent times (I’m writing this in June of 2020 for anyone who may be reading this in the future), the news has especially come under fire for censoring and doctoring the news to during the protests that are happening globally. Nina herself says that the news only sells when it is a suburban neighbourhood that is in danger, when it is a white person that has been stabbed or murdered. While this sounds cold, it is an accurate portrayal of today’s news.
So, back to what I said about character arcs. The frustration and genius of Lou’s character arc is that it starts off in the conventional way that his flaw is introduced to the audience – that he is cold and willing to do whatever it takes to make money. But whereas most protagonists through the events of the film are forced to change their ways, Lou isn’t – if anything, the events that happen in the film worsen his flaws and make him colder than he was before. It’s unnerving for the audience and is similar to a villain origin story – but is there a Louis Bloom in all of us somewhere every time we turn on the news?
I hope you enjoyed this analysis – last week, I wrote on human greed in Jurassic World which you can read here. Please let me know if there are any other films you would like me to analyse and be sure to follow for more film news and reviews.