Forget Nightcrawler’s plot. Forget its satirical elements, which are sadly accurate and on point enough to not even count as satire. The real joy and beauty of this film comes from its central character, Lou Bloom. Expertly written by Dan Gilroy and executed by Jake Gyllenhaal, this is a character for the ages. I’d gladly watch Lou Bloom do anything. If they want to make a movie where he has to run a daycare center or a movie where he befriends a homeless person with a terminal illness or any other lame premise like that, I’d be thrilled.
Lou Bloom is a sociopath whose main goal is not killing people so much as making the most of our corporate professional infrastructure. Enthusiastic and brilliant to unnerving degrees, he’s the horrifying end result of a million “How to Succeed in Business” self-help books. The fact that he finds his success by taping bloody accidents and murders for news broadcasts is just dressing. He’d excel at any profession that requires ruthlessness and punishes morals.
Nightcrawler is a movie that grabs you from the first moments and keeps your attention all the way through. There are no moments for a quick bathroom break or anything like that. Every scene keeps you curious and eager to find out what this Lou Bloom guy will do next. His giant smile and flat-out shameless audacity puts the film well into comedy territory, which is not what I expected at all. What initially looks like a dark drama actually ends up being hilarious.
Part of that is Gyllenhaal, but Gilroy deserves a lot of credit as well. I have no aspirations to write screenplays, but occasionally a movie comes along with writing strong enough that I have no idea how someone could have actually created it. There’s a scene early in Richard III where Richard has to woo the wife of a man he just killed. Shakespeare has to make this impossible task convincing both for the character in question and the audience. Nightcrawler features a couple scenes between Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo that also require such impossibilities and yet manages to pull them off. Just on a sheer screenwriting level, it kind of put my jaw on the floor.
Gilroy also manages to pace the film perfectly, turning in a two hour long movie that feels like an easy breeze from beginning to end. This isn’t a rise and fall story but simply a rise and rise film, giving the whole structure a kind of first act feel, something I’m always pretty fond of, especially when executed this well.
You’ve probably already heard plenty of writers praise Nightcrawler, but its quality can’t be overstated. This is a seriously entertaining film. I’ve had it in my head for days. I’ve barely scratched the surface of its qualities here because making an inventory of them feels unnecessary and will leave little for you to discover on your own. The main point is that it’s kind of a slam dunk movie, the kind that’s really hard to overhype. Don’t let it pass you by.