Movies I Like: “Nightcrawler”

Jacob Babb in 500 Words On on Jan 26, 2016

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

“Nightcrawler” stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis Bloom, a young charismatic man simply looking for a job he can turn into a career. Through some chance and good timing, he finds himself involved with freelance videography and selling tapes to the local newsroom. Bloom quickly learns what type of content the media wants from him and doesn’t hesitate to deliver any way he can while giving the audience a glimpse into how modern media operates today.

The film starts with Bloom stealing a section of a fence from an industrial area of Los Angeles. After fighting off a security guard, he takes the fence and other metal objects to someone who will buy it. They negotiate and come to an agreement, but before he leaves, Bloom asks the man for a job. He says no and offers the reasoning that he doesn’t hire thieves. However on his way home, Bloom stops to inspect a car crash when two men show up and begin to film the scene. Through some chatting, he finds out that they make their money by videoing car crashes and the like for newsrooms. Bloom, thinking he’s found his calling, cashes in on a camera and a police scanner to join the underground business of stringer. Quickly and surely, he’s skills and knowledge of the business begin to take off, but although he learns the technical aspects, he never learns the ethics of journalism.

When I first saw this film, I greatly enjoyed it: Gyllenhaal plays the role of Louis Bloom expertly, the cinematography is sharp and the plot keeps the audience interested. I didn’t know what it was about the movie exactly; I just knew I wanted to see it again. Once I watched it a second time, it was easier to pinpoint what it was: Louis Bloom is an antihero. The whole time the movie progresses, he does worse and worse things to get better and better results to turn in to the media. However, I still felt myself cheering Bloom on even though I know that what he’s doing is wrong.

One of the more subtle ways of invoking these feelings of camaraderie comes from the music during certain scenes of the film. Take the scene where Bloom breaks into the family’s home to get the shot of them through the window: as he makes his way in, the music softly comes in with a tone that elicits an uplifting feeling. While watching this part, it’s hard not to be proud of Bloom for completely disregarding the ethics of the business he wants to be a part of due to the score that sets the mood of the scene. Similar moments like this are placed throughout the film to keep the viewers on Bloom’s side as he becomes harder to empathize with.

If you look at the film in relation to our culture today, it makes some pretty interesting statements about the media. Towards the opening of the film, as Bloom is discussing with a future competitor, he asks him, “Will this be on TV?” The man responds, “Morning news; if it bleeds, it leads.” Now, this notion doesn’t shock anyone. Everyone knows that nowadays the media has a particular interest in graphic material, but Nina, the news director for the station Bloom frequents, implies there’s more to it than just that. When they first meet, Nina tells Bloom to “think of [their] newscast as a screaming woman running down the street with her throat slit.” That’s a bit more dramatic than most people would put it, but drama is just what the media wants.

One of the best ways to create drama in a community is to fabricate the need to be paranoid, a questionable act which Nina, and contemporary media, feel very comfortable doing. While Bloom is showing Nina his footage of the car jacking, she immediately hatches a plan to connect it to a string of other car thefts that are completely unrelated. There are no facts to back this up, but it makes for a hell of a story. Contemporary media has a habit of blowing things out of proportion simply to increase viewership.

Finally after the climax of the film, Bloom meets with Nina to give her the footage of the car chase and death of his own partner. During this clip, the two’s profiles fill the screen. They’re very close to each other, almost whispering as they discuss the events of the video. The music once again triggers a feeling of proudness, as if we’re meant to think, “Wow, he did it!” Even more than that, Nina hardly even cares about Bloom’s partner, saying the whole thing is “amazing” in a tone that almost sounds as if she is aroused by this gruesome footage. Media truly loves it’s graphic content.

It’s save to assume that I am a fan of this movie, and honestly, it’s hard not to be. The story itself is interesting enough, but when combined with the music, the camera work and the inspiration for the plot itself, “Nightcrawler” will leave you confused by your empathy for Bloom and a bitter taste in your mouth the next time you watch the news.


Originally published at theodysseyonline.com on January 26, 2016.