Bloom, much like Bickle, is a character that thrives on a chance encounter and a societal luck of the draw. Drawing on pithy business sayings paired with a ravenous desire to excel, paired with a complete lack of empathy, Bloom sways between unbelievably hackney to voraciously dangerous in the blink of an eye. Gyllenhaal is excellent in this role and was a high point of the film. He's an actor that clearly puts thought and history into each of his roles and for Lou Bloom, some of his character is carefully constructed, which makes a complete loss of control all the more terrifying.
Violence in the media, or the idea that "if it bleeds, it leads" is not new. For this reason, the movie doesn't shock or instruct in any novel manner even as we grimace at the devolution of Bloom's morals, which were questionable to begin with. The question really is, what's the point the movie is trying to make? There doesn't seem to be much of one. The movie has a lot of flash and some of its strength is in the noirish shots of LA. Cinematographer Robert Elswitt mixed film for daytime scenes with digital shots of the night scene, achieving a different feel for that cool, sleek LA night that Nightcrawler Bloom thrives in. There's a lot of style, but not in an overbearing way. Nightcrawler has one of the best car chase scenes that I've seen recently. In a cinema land where car chases are numbered up the wazoo, this one had me torn between grinning with the glee of watching it and letting my jaw drop in appreciation. There are a few sequences that director Dan Gilroy executes perfectly, knowing exactly how much to draw you in or how much attention to draw to each action. The overall plot may not pull any fast ones, but Gilroy makes it well worth the watch. Gilroy is a first time director, but he has a narrative confidence probably due to his experience in penning screenplays (The Fall and Bourne Legacy, to name a couple). It doesn't hurt that he's directing his wife Rene Russo either.
Speaking of lack of empathy or a lack of social cues, James Newton Howard's handling of the soundtrack feels off-kilter at times as if he's completely unable to read the situation. It only works for the movie a couple times, but mostly the music is so wrong that it completely draws the audience out of the mood or even makes them uncomfortably aware of how inappropriate the music is.
It's interesting to think of how, like Travis Bickle, Lou Bloom is able to excel in a job when he would have been completely shunned as an outcast in another role. What is it about certain careers that call for a different amount of integrity, or varying amounts of societal thick-skinnedness that might also be marked as ruthlessness? Granted that certain moral issues within the movie are exaggerated and (hopefully) would not fly in reality, where does the American Dream work ethic cross points with what are considered basic moral feelings?
NIghtcrawler doesn't bring up any issues that are new under the sun, nor does it have quite enough umph to bring together some of its rather phenomenal parts. Nevertheless, it does address these issues without pushing a propaganda on its audience and it's a fantastic directorial debut for Gilroy partnered with an even more enjoyable performance by Gyllenhaal.