Jake Gyllenhaal’s IMDb page is an interesting place. The man has played a cowboy, a soldier, multiple police officers and the freaking Bubble Boy. He’s always had a knack for choosing interesting and unusual roles, but Louis Bloom may be his most unsettling character to date.
When we first meet Louis, he’s absolutely desperate for a job. After a failed attempt at begging for employment, he goes on his way until stumbling across a fiery car crash on the side of the highway. A van pulls over as well and two cameramen hop out to shoot footage of the potentially grisly scene. Louis learns that news stations are willing to pay good money for this type of video (“If it bleeds, it leads,”) and before you know it, he’s visiting a local pawn shop to buy a police scanner and camera of his own.
Even before becoming a professional nightcrawler, it’s clear that something isn’t quite right with Lou. He’s wonderfully well spoken and extremely driven, but there’s an obvious insanity hiding behind those eyes. This can all be attributed to Gyllenhaal’s outstanding portrayal. He has the incredible ability to be hugely charismatic and slightly unnerving at the same time. It’s as if he could derail at any moment and as the crime scenes get progressively more brutal, so does he. What’s even more astonishing is that you may even find yourself laughing at a number of things that come out of his mouth.
Along the way, Louis comes across some other curious characters, with a few of them as ruthless as himself. Rene Russo plays a local news veteran whose moral code is overshadowed with her obsession for earning the highest ratings. Obviously, she becomes Lou’s main buyer. Bill Paxton also stars as a rival nightcrawler and does a great job with being as seedy as possible. One of the only characters with any sort of morality is Rick (Riz Ahmed), who happens to be Lou’s only employee. Ahmed does a great job as the straight man to Gyllenhaal’s more eccentric character and helps keep the story grounded.
As a TV Production major, it was especially interesting to get a closer look at the more inhumane side of the business. Many of my professors have told stories about working with people like Russo’s character, which makes it clear that the cast and crew did their research. One of the scenes held in the control room during a local news broadcast is portrayed with the same intensity as the crime scenes we see Louis film beforehand. Both will have you on the edge of your seat.
This movie happens to be Dan Gilroy’s directorial debut, which I was shocked to discover after seeing it. There are a few scenes that drag on a bit and some odd choices in music that seem out of place, but those are excusable offenses when you consider how well this film excels in terms of style. The dark streets of Los Angeles are brought to life so vividly, with a sleekness that could be compared to 2011’s Drive. I guess a director’s job is made much easier when working with an actor as proficient as Gyllenhaal.
Another interesting thing you’ll find on Jake Gyllenhaal’s IMDb page? He has yet to win an Academy Award. In fact, he’s only been nominated for one. Nightcrawler could change that. This is his movie. In one scene, Lou is seen violently smashing a mirror with his bare hands. It turns out, that wasn’t fake. Gyllenhaal had to be rushed to the hospital afterwards and still went back to film more later that day. He also reportedly lost 25 pounds for this role, while living on a strict diet that consisted of ice cubes and kale chips.
Let’s just say it’s a good thing Prince of Persia never became a successful movie franchise because Jake Gyllenhaal has been delivering some of the best performances of his career since then. With movies like End of Watch, Prisoners, Enemy and now Nightcrawler, it’s refreshing to see such a big name continue to tackle more challenging and obscure roles. I hope it pays off when it comes time for Oscar season because I’d love to see the “Awards” section of Gyllenhaal’s IMDb page get a much deserved update. As daunting as this role is, it could just happen.