Nightcrawler and Materialistic Society

In a society that values constant social adversity, materialistic wealth and hierarchical disputes, those who utilize surreptitious means will always rise to the top. Dan Gilroy’s 2014 thriller Nightcrawler very often and blatantly criticizes local news sources for their willingness to throw any morals out the window in return for a hit segment, no matter how distasteful or illegal.

The protagonist Louis “Lou” Bloom, is one such personification of the many social ailments that local news embodies. These environments which value the material and vain over morals produces individuals who will stop at nothing to attain what they so desire, as evidenced by Lou’s growing professional success as the plot transpires. In the end, Nightcrawler is not a story in which the “good guy” prevails; it is a harsh look at deep rooted materialism sewn into society.

The film begins with Lou Bloom stealing scrap from a junkyard. He is approached by a security guard, and then it is implied that Lou kills him simply for his wristwatch. Early on, the audience is introduced to the very morbid theme that people are inherently self-interested and will commonly do most anything to attain their goals.

Directly afterwards, the audience is subjected to a scene which is humorous, despite the obvious murder that just took place in the background. This is a common theme explored throughout the film as gory details are swept under the rug by eventual outcomes that make people happy. The incredibly gory details are casually forgotten through the lens of Lou Bloom and society after it is largely found that Lou’s professional success rides on his exploiting tragedy. Nightcrawler explores and pressures the audience to think about the extremes individuals go to, especially Lou Bloom, to obtain what makes them eventually happy, regardless of the cost to other people.

Perhaps the most haunting aspect of the film is right in front of the audience for the majority, if not the entirety of the movie. Specifically designed to induce insane discomfort, Jake Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of Lou Bloom is not only masterful but painstakingly accurate due to his acting skills. Lou’s manipulative interactions with Rick, his matter-of-fact and often sexually harrassing courtship of Nina and his frequent use of incredibly damaging lies prove that Lou is very different than most people. The demeanor which he portrays is one of discomfort and deceit, and it is nearly one that exhibits the true horror of the uncanny valley.

In its entirety, Nightcrawler is a cry for help from the manipulated, the discarded and, ironically, the virtuous. Those around Lou, while lacking his mental state, still carry out the same atrocities. As long as the morally deficient exist and are given countless positions of power over large swaths of society, then those seeking legitimate happiness are not safe from these individuals. Those people could be anybody, lying in wait to find their big break.

-Samantha Frohring ’25

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