Nightcrawler (2014) (R)
There's something entirely uneasy in the way that Dan Gilroy shoots "Nightcrawler". He gives us a steaming plate of wacky tendencies, blended up in a Hollywood smoothie of "insanity" and we're supposed to gag when we drink it. And gag we do.
What sets this movie apart from the rest is its firm hold on its lead character. Obviously, he has a few screws loose in his head; but the "Nightcrawler" makes sure to never depart from his emotions, his logic, his head.
At the movie's opening, Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is nothing but a petty thief. His synergetic style of business appropriate talking makes him sound like he's selling something, which he is: himself. He will cut metal from fences and sell it to scrap yards; but he wants something a little more permanent. He wants a job.
Coming home one night, Louis stumbles across a horrific car accident and he pauses to watch it. From nowhere, a group of men with cameras rush to the scene to capture footage of the wrecked car and the policemen trying to pull the passengers out while a fire starts—it's footage that sells itself. These men are the freelancers of the news world, the nitty and gritty underlings who prey off the moral. At least, that's how Gilroy sees them. Much of "Nightcrawler" feels like his intense hatred of the new media machine; but more on that later.
For Louis, this experience is like a sign from God, one that cannot and should not be ignored. He has found his calling.
Now armed with a police scanner and a camcorder, Louis starts to tag along to the crime scenes, being the most forward one with how close he gets to the wreckage. He begins to form a professional relationship with Nina Romina (Rene Russo) who is the manager at a local news station. She is the embodiment of what he wants, successful, ruthless, and effective. But Nina's report never accurately reflects how brutal she can be. Seeing a chance, she seizes the footage from Louis and promises if he brings back more bloody and more gruesome images, he will have a place at the station.
Louis then hires an assistant, Rick (Riz Ahmed) to help him navigate the streets of Los Angeles.
Rick is the antithesis to Louis, in as they both are motivated by different things. Rick is in it for the money, but Louis seems to be attempting to preserve his name in gold.
Things start to heat up as Louis takes more and more risks in getting his footage and starts blurring distinct moral lines. This is not the man who should be crossed.
Jake Gyllenhaal has always proven that he is capable of a range of characters and Louis Bloom does nothing but celebrate the actor's talent. As Louis, Gyllenhaal manages to convince you of his standpoint while simultaneously repulsing you. I think a lot of that also has to do with Gilroy's screenplay.
It's a complex piece, one that makes you squirm for feeling so attached to Louis Bloom and here Gilroy seems more seasoned than he actually is. He is restrained and violent...but always in the best interest of Louis Bloom.
There's one scene that sticks out to me: Louis is explaining to Nina about his ethics—twisted and pretentious. The music swells and Nina appears to get sexually excited. Yet it all feels genuine. It feels like Louis does believe what he is saying and it feels like Nina is attracted to him. It's all very uncomfortable, but not too much that you want to look away.
Gilroy obviously hates the media. I can think of no other reason why he would want to so blatantly mock and throttle the institution of his story. There is no one character—even those who attempt to be moral "sidekick" like people—in the machinery who isn't despicable in some form.
"Nightcrawler" is less so thrilling and frightening than it is simply appealing to hate. This is intentional and I think it works quite well.
Posted by Micah Jones