Monday, November 10, 2014

Nightcrawler (2014)

Nightcrawler (2014)

Director: Dan Gilroy

Cast: Jake Gyllenhal, Rene Russo, Bill Paxton

Nightcrawler came out of nowhere for me, I had no idea who was behind it, who made it, who wrote it, I didn’t even know it was in production. But then I saw a trailer and I was immediately hooked. The premise alone got me; the idea of a guy who takes matters into his own hands and starts filming things that happen on the streets, capturing footage of moments on the spot, seconds after they’d happened, or sometimes as they are happening, sometimes getting there before the cops or the fire men themselves, it just seemed like a very original concept to me. I mean, speaking about the media, we all know how news is manipulated to shape the way the masses perceive things. I personally despise how the media is always fear mongering. Example, I turned on the television the other day and right there in words that caught practically half of the screen where the words ‘Fear’ and ‘Ebola’, with no other words on the screen. I was like wow, that’s what their selling now. That’s what they want people to fear now, but is this an actual epidemic? Or are they deviating the publics attention from things that really matter in the world? A few months down the line it’ll be some other fear; the trick is to keep us in a state of panic without focusing on things that are truly important. So a film in which someone wants to capture the news himself seemed so interesting to me. Did Nightcrawler deliver the goods? 

The story focuses on Louis Bloom, a common thief with delusions of grandeur. Louis is a smart guy, he educates himself by reading a lot, the problem is that he’s kind of nuts. Actually, the guy is full blown nuts. He’s the kind of guy that a few minutes into the conversation, you realize he’s completely bonkers, but boy, what a character! So anyhow, when we first meet him he’s stealing manholes and watches to sell them for scraps, until he stumbles upon this guy who films video footage so he can sell it to the local news channel. Suddenly, like an epiphany, Louis realizes that he can make more money doing this as well. So he gets himself a camera and starts shooting footage of car accidents and fires, with the footage being as graphic as possible. Soon he starts making some money and growing. He starts to get ambitious, how far is he willing to go to make it the top?

One thing I like about movies like this one is how they feel like a jolt of electricity because they speak the truth because they aim their guns at something that’s happening in society, something that’s real.  The media is of course being controlled, so is music and films, this is probably why most films are so watered down and silly, the Motion Picture Association of America holds a firm grip on the type of films that are being released in cinemas, same goes for the news we see in the newspapers and on television. They focus only on certain things, on things they want us to think about. There’s this amazing scene in Nightcrawler in which the producer of the news show (played by Rene Russo) is feeding the news anchors the words that they have to emphasize during their broadcast. The word fear and panic popped up more than once. The question that popped in my head was: just how much of what news anchors say are their own words? The answer is zero, they read everything. Everything is filtered, chosen for them. But this is just one of the themes the film addresses, we’re talking about a very layered film here.

A few movies came to mind while watching this one, but one of the first ones to pop up was of course Taxi Driver (1976), because the main character is a loner roaming the streets at night, slowly going insane because of society and the way things are. But unlike Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, Louis Bloom doesn't try to change the world, instead, like a vampire, he wants to feed off of it. What kind of person is society breeding? Louis Bloom is a good example, here’s a desperate character without a formal education, but willing to learn and do what he’s got to do to survive in this crazy world. He’s ambitious, but ambition and greed have corrupted his soul, so here we have a guy willing to do anything to make it to the top, even if what he has to do is morally unacceptable. But then you get to thinking, arent these the kind of people that make it to the top anyways? Louis Bloom builds his own small enterprise, he becomes the boss of his own imaginary corporation, and he treats his only employee the way most big corporations treat their employees, like shit; with little benefits or remuneration for their work, yet exploiting them as much as possible. So in a strange way, Louis becomes the mirror image of corporate America. You think Louis Bloom is wrong in the way he treats people? Then you think most big corporations are, because to me they are one and the same in this movie.

How awesome is Jake Gyllenhal in this movie? I’d say his performance is Oscar worthy stuff, I hope he gets it. It’s one of those career defining pieces, where the actor will never be the same after it, so here’s hoping. It’s been interesting seeing Gyllenhal grow as an actor. I’ve been following his career since his early days, when he blew me away with Donnie Darko (2001). Gyllenhal, you’ve come a long way baby, many kudos to you for this performance, hopefully we’ll see you Oscar night. So anyhow, his performance will blow you away, or send chills down your spine. You might even find yourself cheering him on at one point? At others you’ll totally despise him, at others you might pity him, he’s a very ambiguous character with many sides to him. Certainly not someone we want to emulate, but at the same time, you have to admit his character does say certain truths about life and the world we live in; is Louis Bloom a mad prophet of our times? You be the judge. 

The way it was shot, and the way it looks, Nightcrawler has this weird thing about it, it feels like a film from the 70’s. It’s also like a film from the 70’s because it reminded me of that time when movies weren’t worried about being politically correct and were more concerned with saying something that matters, something relevant about society. The 70’s were a time when movies still had an edge to them, and Nightcrawler has that edge. It speaks of the desperate times we’re living in, where people are struggling to “make it”, struggling to dig themselves out of the proverbial hole, doing anything necessary to make ends meet. Sad part is that it’s the economy and the way society is constructed that pushes people to live this way. I enjoyed that rawness about Nightcrawler; it feels real, genuine and alive. It reminded me a bit of Sydney Lumet’s Network (1976) because it has to do with the dissemination of news to the masses and because it speaks the truth about the dog eat dog world we’re living in. If we’re not careful, we’ll turn into Louise Bloom, a desperate individual, willing to step on anybody to make it to the top.

Rating: 5 out of 5


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