The Filmspotting podcast refers to a kind of movie they call one-timers. It might be great, but for whatever reason, seeing it once is all you can handle in your life. Nightcrawler is an excellent movie, extremely gripping and remarkably unique, and I never, ever want to see it again.
Jake Gyllenhaal–too skinny, with frighteningly bugged-out eyes and an unnerving amount of eye contact–plays Lou Bloom, a character I’m completely comfortable already calling one of cinema’s great weirdos. His ethics start out broken in a standard way- the opening scene of the movie is him cutting chain link fence to sell for scrap. But it gets way more twisted and unpleasant from there. Stumbling on to the profession by accident, Lou discovers a certain knack for what the movie calls nightcrawling and what real life apparently calls stringing, that is, listening to a police scanner and driving to the scene of accidents and shootings and getting camera footage to sell to network news shows.
He’s a very driven character who often makes a lot of sense, even if you wish he would stop talking and go away forever. He has an implicit understanding of power and how to wield it. The way he talks makes you wonder if he has some kind of mental or emotional handicap occasionally, but then you get the occasional glimpse under the surface and realize that no, he really knows exactly what he’s doing and he means it.
It’s a character study of a character you don’t want to ever meet. At one point, I offered the following advice to a character: Change your name, move across the country, and find a new line of work. Do whatever you have to to never see him again. Such is the power and terror wielded by Lou Bloom in this movie. The more you get to know him, the less you feel like you know, and the more terrified you are of the rest of what you haven’t seen yet. It’s the definition of more lurking under the surface.
There are actually other characters in this movie; Rene Russo plays the news director that Lou Bloom sells his footage to, and Riz Ahmed plays his unfortunate assistant. And they’re good! But until I can get Lou Bloom out of my head, none of the rest of it really even matters.