Nightcrawler lacks purpose but might win an Oscar

by Bob Brown
Posted 11/25/14, 09:00 am

Nightcrawler’s Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhall) is neither hero nor anti-hero: He’s a loner trying to keep busy. After he happens on a car wreck and meets a nightcrawler—a cameraman who works into the early hours of the morning filming accidents and crime scenes and selling the footage to TV news stations—he buys a police scanner and a used video camera and begins a new career.

Bloom quickly learns the trade and is soon beating the police and rival nightcrawlers to the scene. He arrives at a car accident and repositions the bleeding victim to get a better camera angle. (Nightcrawler’s R rating is for injury carnage and occasional bad language.) Bloom’s increasingly daring camerawork earns him thousands of dollars a night.

Bloom finds success, but he’s not looking for meaning. A talkative sociopath who is too gentle to lay hands on anyone, he is well-read and cold-hearted, politely manipulating his homeless sidekick and a local news producer (Rene Russo). With restrained intensity Bloom refuses a slumping veteran nightcrawler’s offer of partnership: “I feel like grabbing your ears and screaming in your face. Instead, I’m going to go home and do some accounting.”

The Joe Trapanese soundtrack swells with triumph when Bloom is most apathetic, underscoring director Dan Gilroy’s masterful portrayal of energetic purposelessness. Exposing the smarminess of tabloid journalism is of secondary importance to Gilroy. He stays strong to the finish. He doesn’t offer Bloom (or moviegoers) redemption because Bloom—without a soul to know any better—isn’t looking for it. For Bloom there are only means. If the movie has an end, it’s a Gyllenhaal Oscar nomination.

Bob Brown

Bob is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute’s mid-career course.

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