Monday 23 April 2018

Movie Review: Nightcrawler (2014)

A slick drama thriller, Nightcrawler tackles themes of gutter journalism, unbridled ambition and the relentless pursuit of the American dream.

In Los Angeles, Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a scrap metal thief operating exclusively at night and harbouring ambitions of starting a more legitimate career. He stumbles upon a highway car crash scene and meets freelance videographer - or "stringer" - Joe Loder (Bill Paxton). Louis decides to enter the business and buys a basic police scanner and video camera. Soon he captures images at a drive-by shooting and displays a cold-blooded talent for videotaping up-close gore.

He finds a buyer in overnight television news producer Nina Romina (Rene Russo), who works at the lowest rated station and is obsessed with stories that evoke fear by demonstrating urban crime creeping into the suburbs. Louis takes on apprentice Rick (Riz Ahmed) and goes on a streak of scooping Loder. The money from Nina flows in, allowing Louis to upgrade his car and equipment. Inspired by lessons learned from online business management courses, Louis' ambition is unleashed, and he starts shaping his career, his relationship with Nina, and the news.

Written and directed by Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler is an intense profile of the drive for success. Compact, efficient, relentless, and dark literally and figuratively, the film is unblinking, a combination of character study, psychological drama and tense thriller. Gorgeously photographed to illuminate the seductive power of night, every part of the film fits together, from the subtle emotional manipulation moments to the straight excitement of a climax where news, entertainment and personal agendas meld into one wild night.

The story is disturbing and compelling in equal parts, a commentary on a society where everybody can strive to be a somebody, whether deserved or not. Nightcrawler shines a spotlight on what goes on at night and in the deepest recesses of every human mind, as the drive towards something better finds a manifestation within an unlikely character. Gilroy creates a sinister protagonist and proceeds to use him as a mirror to the great human desire for betterment.

Jake Gyllenhaal creates a bug-eyed, sleazy-haired look suitable for a life spent in the dark of night, and delivers a performance filled with macabre fervour. By most definitions Louis Bloom deserves nothing other than prison time, and yet his coldly calculating and methodical approach towards carving out a career can only be admired. Spouting stock business school phrases and vacuous statements about management, leadership and success, Bloom's self-awareness, grit, perseverance and smarmy charm take him a long way in a short time.

Bloom carves his road to success in the world of fear-mongering television journalism where the most important story is the one with the most shocking visuals. Nina Romina is hungry for ratings success and specializes in serving up crap for the breakfast news show, and in Bloom she finds the cockroach who will drag the most disgusting filth from the depths of night and into the morning cereal bowl.

Joe Loder and Rick are the other characters inhabiting this night world. Both are also striving to improve their status but up against Louis, they will learn what ruthless ambition looks like. It's only in the absence of attentive light that degenerate cruelty finds the opportunities to thrive.

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1 comment:

  1. Nightcrawler is one of those rare movies that is completely watchable, even mesmerizing, while simultaneously containing not a single human being who isn't completely terrible. There's nothing to celebrate here, but I can't take my eyes off of it.


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