Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Oscars 2014: Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal as the Nightcrawler 
Nightcrawler (U.S., 2014) directed by Dan Gilroy, 107 minutes

One Oscar Nomination
Writing (Original Screenplay)

Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a man who has not found himself yet. Socially awkward, seemingly friendless, uneducated but highly intelligent, he survives by various means, theft being one of them. Hollow eyed, thin and oddly ghoulish looking with his pale skin and penetrating dark eyes, Gyllenhaal is frighteningly convincing. 

Scrambling to survive in Los Angeles, when he sees a freelance film crew led by Joe Loder (the almost unrecognizable Bill Paxton) filming the scene of a car crash, he purchases a video camera and police scanner so that he can track the police codes and race to the scene of a crime or accident and film it for the TV news for highly lucrative fees. Bloom offers the footage to Nina Romina (Rene Russo), a morning news director in the least successful TV station in the highly competitive L.A. market. She is impressed. 

They have slathered the lovely Russo with garish and harsh make-up. It ages her, increasing the perceived age difference between her and Bloom and lending a gargoyle like quality to her features at times. Her video requirements are simple: record violent incidents or accidents in affluent neighbourhoods, preferably with white victims, which attract the highest ratings. 

Bloom's patter, whether trying to secure a job with Nina or tempting a homeless young man into working for him for free, is part Darwinian theory, part Tony Robbins-like self-improvement philosophy. 

The director Gilroy's L.A. is a vivid tableau of car crashes, burning houses, car-jackings, murders with the Nightcrawlers (the videographers of the disastrous) swooping down and circling each calamity with vicious efficiency.  

Bloom blithely alters crime scenes if it enhances a shot - including moving a body at a crash scene when he is the first to arrive. Or he surreptitiously invades the house of a beleaguered family and shoots unauthorized footage of private photos to add to the poignancy of the scene. He gains in confidence and access, purchasing better equipment and a new car. This attracts an offer from his nemesis Loder which he declines.

Bloom's loathsomeness grows (the gimlet-eyed Gyllenhaal is impressive here). When Loder bests him in scooping a story, Bloom sabotages Loder's van killing him and his crew. Bloom blithely films the accident and the dying Loder. He then pressures Romina to have sex with him or he will withdraw the daily footage he provides which she needs in a ratings period. 

When Bloom and his minion Carey (Riz Ahmed) arrive at the site of a home invasion in an affluent neighbourhood, Bloom records the gunmen leaving. He also enters the house and films the three murder victims - one of whom is still breathing as he leaves. Romina eagerly breaks the story despite the objections of her staff, conceding to Bloom's demands for public acknowledgment and more money.

Bloom's actions become more reprehensible, causing more and more damage and chaos but in the end he triumphs. His Darwinian approach (including firing an employee whom he says he cannot trust while he lies dying before him) is a bleak assessment of what the cancer of tabloid culture holds not only for those in La La Land, but for all of us. The next to last scene in which we see the look on Romina's face - an almost erotic fixation on Bloom and his "successes" - says it all. 

No comments: