Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.
Movies love to show us sociopaths. There’s something inherently fascinating about that particular flavor of mental illness. A film like Nightcrawler takes that idea and runs very hard with it, taking the idea of sociopathy in some very new directions. Our main character is remorseless, relentless, and driven and willing to do anything to get what he wants, but for all of that, he’s also not a serial killer, at least not specifically.
Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a petty thief who rips off construction sites for copper wiring and other metal items that he can sell to a scrap yard. He attempts unsuccessfully to turn this into a job. Later that same evening, he sees the results of a car accident and also sees two men led by Joe Loder (Bill Paxton) filming. Loder is a stringer, filming crimes and accidents and selling the footage to the highest bidder from the local news teams. Lou is inspired by this and decides that this is what he wants to do. The next day, he steals a racing bike and trades them at a pawnshop for a camcorder and a police scanner and starts his own stringing career. Lou makes an enemy of Loder when he gets too close to the aftermath of a shooting, getting them both kicked off the scene. While Loder’s footage is clearer and better, Lou managed to get much closer to the victim, and parlays that into his first sale to a local news broadcast produced by Nina Romina (Rene Russo). He finds himself immediately attracted to Nina despite her being considerably older than he is and more or less begins selling to her exclusively. She gives him some basic tips—bloody and scary sells, and urban crime in good neighborhoods or the suburbs sells the best. Suddenly with a real income, Lou upgrades his camera and his car and brings in Rick Carey (Riz Ahmed) as a very low paid “intern” to help him on his nightly searches for footage.
None of this, beyond Lou’s odd personality, indicates just how perverse he is as a person, but we’re not long from that happening. At a crash scene, Lou moves the body of a victim to make for a better shot. Eventually, Joe Loder offers him a job running his second van, which Lou declines. Later that evening, Loder beats him to a major story, leading Lou to sabotage Loder’s van, which leads to a crash and Loder being seriously injured.
That same night, Lou and Rick respond to a report of a disturbance, and as they pull up, they hear shots fired. Lou is already filming and gets footage of two men leaving a house, managing to get good shots of their faces and of their license plate. Lou then enters the house and gets footage of a crime scene that involves three dead bodies. Naturally, this attracts the attention of the police, who want the footage. Lou gives them an edited tape that does not include the faces of the criminals or the license plate. He then tracks down the criminals and begins to follow them, knowing that he will have an exclusive on the probably shootout and arrest as well as the potential reward money for helping to apprehend the criminals.
I won’t spoil the last 20 minutes of the film except to say that they are the true evidence of just how much of a sociopath Lou really is. We also learn that for her part, Nina Romina is something of a sociopath herself. Whatever it takes to get the good lead, right?
Lou Bloom is a unique cinematic creation. It’s also the best thing I’ve seen Jake Gyllenhaal do. This is a truly terrifying performance, but it is simultaneously completely mesmerizing. When Gyllenhaal is on the screen, no one else needs to be, because he is always the focus, even when he’s not talking. This is a character who gets whatever he wants by maneuvering himself in to a position of power and simply claiming his right to take what is his. There are certainly scarier film creations than Lou Bloom, but few who can match his coldness, emotionlessness, and complete lack of empathy.
This is also a beautifully made film. A great deal of the footage here (if not all of it) is shot digitally, and it is gorgeous. Even if the story were not as compelling as it is, this would be a film worth seeing just for the visual style.
It’s the lack of emotion that truly makes the film work, though. Nightcrawler is almost clinical in how it depicts the terrible things that it shows us. It looks like a film that J.G. Ballard would write if he wrote screenplays instead of really disturbing novels. The coldness works, though, because it highlights just how mentally unwell Lou is.
There are still a number of 2014 movies I haven’t seen yet, but I can pretty much guarantee that when I look at a few of the Oscar categories from this year, I’m going to wonder why Nightcrawler was snubbed.
Why to watch Nightcrawler: It goes just as far as it should and no further.
Why not to watch: It will shake your faith in humanity.
This is the best film that was not nominated this tear, and better than several that were. Gyllenhaal deserved to beat the big show. What is really amazing to me is that our local channel allowed so much of the film to use their space. They are as guilty as anyone of engaging in the same things that the fictional local channel does. Talk about holding the mirror up to yourself.ReplyDelete
Right now, having seen only two of the Best Picture nominees, I cannot imagine why this didn't earn a nomination.Delete
I loved this movie, it's in my top 3 of 2014. I think it's both entertaining, well-acted, and has things to say about our society.ReplyDelete
It's horrible that something so amoral is a paid job. I think you almost have to be a bit mad to do it for a living. Yet if there's money to be earned, then there will always be someone. You could go so far and say these characters are merely doing their job and encouraged to be cold and amoral by the way the media is set up. For me, the point of the movie is the relentless 24 hour news cycle is the ultimate villian. Whenever I see news footage of crimes/accidents now, I'll probably think of Lou Bloom. He might have come from a dysfunctional family(the usual excuse I know). It appears Lou is trying to repress his past. I would say he has problems that he hasn’t dealt with. Even though he is a wrongdoer I could still empatize with his to a certain extent(kind of like in Taxi Driver)
In my review I mentioned the director, he is quoted as saying another aim of the film was to show how the media preys on people’s fears. The report is usually strung together with some other incident “to give you a sense that there’s some nefarious pattern”. He said that such reports support the queues of Americans wanting to buy guns because they’re “terrified of some nebulous threat out there”. So(unfortunately) it seems to be a vicious circle of violence.
It's more or less Network for the current century. You're also right about the ultimate villain of the movie. I didn't go into a great deal of detail there, but that is more or less what the film is saying. We're more scared as a society despite the world being a genuinely safer place and despite falling crime numbers, and the news media is the culprit.Delete
Completely agree, I don't know how this one wasn't nominated. Easily one of the best movies of 2014, and one of the most entertaining. I watched Interstellar this weekend, and feel the same about it. If Oscar didn't get it wrong, he was asleep this year.ReplyDelete
While I've yet to watch several movies I'm really looking forward to from 2014, right now Nightcrawler is the best I've seen from last year. It's possible that it will be overturned by Birdman, The Imitation Game or The Theory of Everything, but I like it more than the two actual nominees I've seen so far. In that respect, it's a miss.Delete
I just got done watching this. I thought it was a great film. I'm going to have to fish or cut bait soon and post my Top 10 films of 2014 list, but in the last week I've seen two movies that are now in it and this is one of them. The other is The One I Love, which is streaming on Netflix. The less you know about it before seeing it the better. Let's just say I was not expecting what I saw - which is a good thing.ReplyDelete
I've still got a lot of 2014 to get through, but right now this is the best film of last year, with the possible exception of The LEGO Movie. Hard to compare the two, though.Delete
I just posted my review of this movie for my Top 10. I deliberately didn't re-read yours until now because I didn't want to subconsciously plagiarize, but for obvious reasons we covered some of the same territory.Delete
Yeah, we're pretty much on the same page here. I like this one a lot.Delete