Sat 3 Jan 2015
It’s really amazing that ‘Nightcrawler‘ is the first directing achievement of Dan Gilroy – whose record only includes a few scripts (one of the Bourne series movies among them). It’s a real catchy, witty, brutal and realistic story about the thirst for sensations in the news and the monster it creates. It’s also a very well written story (Gilroy authored it as well) with crisp and interesting characters which we keep discovering as long as they are alive on screen. The visuals also have quality – on one hand I have visited Los Angeles recently, so I could not only recognize the places but also feel the atmosphere, on the other hand much of the action happens at night and is news related, so the nervous camera moves with focus on blood and violence makes a lot of sense.
The main character, Louis Bloom is unemployed. I suspect that the proximity with another more famous character L. Bloom is not coincidental, as like Joyce’s Ulysses he is wondering at nights in a big city, looking however to more earthly matters of life. He is a smart unemployed who spends his time navigating the Internet in search of educational and motivational stuff that can push him out of the current status of small criminal, steeling metals and selling them by the pound. The only problem is that nobody wants to hire him, despite his verbal skills of self-promotion, and the reason is bluntly put to him by a potential employer: ‘I am not hiring thieves’. There is however one industry that does not seem to have such scruples: it’s the crime news industry. Local TV networks are ready to pay good in order to serve their customers (us!) the bloodiest news and the most graphical images at breakfast time. Bloom will soon learn the technicalities of the profession, and find inside himself enough resources not only to survive but also to become successful in it.
The action takes place in Los Angeles, and we can even see the Hollywood sign at some point, but it’s far from the typical Hollywood production. It actually has more of an indie atmosphere, and reminded me at some moments ‘Drive’ which was released three years ago. Same intensity, same fringe world. The difference is in the approach. There are no good guys in ‘Nightcrawler’, maybe the exception of Lou’s assistant Rick (played by Riz Ahmed) who does not have much chance of survival in the world described by the film. The film takes also a sharp critical stand about the business, work and human (or should I say inhuman?) relation in the corporate world of America. The words we can hear day to day in the corporate environment sound so natural in the mouths of the criminals. Something must be wrong with the words or the way they are used.
On a higher level however the film is not only about the industry and one specific character that makes his way in it. It is also about the audiences who create the demand for sensationalistic news soaked in blood. About us.
Much of the quality of the film relies on Jake Gyllenhaal‘s performance as Bloom. Gyllenhaal has in this movie the sparkle, darkness and craziness of the big roles. He may not get the Academy Award this year, but he is getting close to that level. Rene Russo also provides an excellent support as the hungry producer ready to accept almost anything and to bend almost any moral or legal rules in order to rise the rating of her news show.
This was the first movie I have seen in 2015. I can only wish that the year in movies will be as good as this one.