Nightcrawler: in search of car-crash TV

Jon Fuge

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There is something about car crashes and violent incidents that brings out the morbid curiosity in the best of us. Many of us will have slowly driven past a collision or frenzied incident just to catch a glimpse of what’s occurring. But where most of us move past these events and get on with our everyday lives, the hero of Nightcrawler, Louis Bloom, sees them as an opportunity for a prosperous career.

The film begins with Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), an incredibly intelligent young man making ends meet through petty theft, stumbling upon a car accident. Inspired by an amateur film crew he sees filming the wreckage, he decides to dive into the sordid world of freelance crime journalism.

This new career path seems to perfectly match Bloom’s personality and warped perception of the world. He is a slimy character; from his greased-back hair to his gaunt appearance, he is a serpent slithering over anyone and anything in his quest for the perfect shot. Bloom’s absolute detachment from the brutal events transpiring around him, as well as the unpredictable rage that bubbles beneath his overtly-friendly surface, makes him an intense, engaging presence.

Nightcrawler’s sublime central performance is helped no end by some excellent visuals by first-time director Dan Gilroy. Whether it’s car chases and murder scenes or more mundane moments in Louis’ apartment, there is a constant sense of tension and unease. The gloomy neon twilight of Los Angeles only adds to this feeling of sleaze.

Underpinning it all is a simple study in media bias. While there is a lot of prattle about how the American media manipulates events to chase ratings and push agendas, Nightcrawler engages with the subject in a haunting and evocative way – showing how even tiny tweaks and edits to footage can completely transform a story.

Make sure you tune in.

Jon Fuge is a writer based in London.

Watch the trailer for Nightcrawler:

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