Monday, December 1, 2014

Nightcrawler - Creep Inc.

Lou Bloom: What if my problem wasn't that I don't understand people but that I don't like them? What if I was the kind of person who was obliged to hurt you for this? I mean physically. I think you'd have to believe afterward, if you could, that agreeing to participate and then backing out at the critical moment was a mistake. Because that's what I'm telling you, as clearly as I can. 

In every character-driven story there is a main character that we root for, we witness his star rising from being a nobody to a somebody. We root for him because he is the good guy; he is an honest man, a salt of the earth kind. He may be flawed but you are okay with it because he is human, after all. You want him to succeed because everybody likes to see an underdog win. Movies like Lord of War, Dallas Buyers Club , The Social Network have protagonists with a grey side, yet they win our empathy because there is something human about their imperfections, we feel for them because their intentions are good, we know that somewhere down the line they will realize their folly and try to turn over a new leaf.  But it is hard to empathize with Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) because there is nothing good about him. He is smart, ambitious and driven to an extent that is terrifying. He is twisted from the minute we see him first on screen, and yet we get attracted to him like a moth toward a flame.

Nightcrawler is an intense two-hour drama/thriller about Lou Bloom, a wayward young man who tries to get his foot in L.A’s local news agency KWLA-Channel 6, by working as a freelance video journalist. Men in this profession are called “nightcrawlers” because they roam the night in search of a good story, crawling into crime scenes armed with a video camera taping anything they could find that would sensationalize the crime. Immoral and sleazy, it is a profession where one man’s misery is another man’s fortune. This is a profession that Lou Bloom stumbles upon when he sees star nightcrawler, Joe Loder (Bill Paxton) in action. Loder refuses to take an earnest Bloom into his wings, who then decides to get into the business by buying a cheap camcorder and a police scanner.

Dan Gilroy’s story also works as a commentary on how news channels function, on how they package and manipulate crime stories to get more viewers and use fear as a tool to sell their product. Bloom in his quest to make it in the big leagues finds an admirer in Nina Romina (Rene Russo), the local TV news producer who schools him and grooms him into the job, not knowing that she’s raising a Gollum. As Bloom flowers in his newfound profession--much to the chagrin of Joe Loder--he begins to grow more ambitious, manipulating and orchestrating potential crime scenes so that he could get eyeball-grabbing footage.

Movies based on news channels often have a TRP obsessed head honcho who compromises with ethics of news broadcasting with sensationalism, Rene Russo as the news producer Nina Romina is the ringmaster who tells what to show to what to say. Cold and businesslike, Romina finds a perfect ally in Bloom, or so she thinks. Rene Russo plays the no-nonsense Romina to perfection; much like Bloom hers is a character that warrants no sympathy from us. Bill Paxton turns in a neat performance as Joe Leder, cocky and with a prima donna attitude his position as leading crime photographer is taken over by the relentless Lou Bloom.

Gilroy who has had a checkered career as a writer (The Bourne Legacy, Real Steel, The Fall) is the writer and director for Nightcrawler. Through Gilroy’s eyes, we see the darker side of L.A., a city riddled with crime. The screenplay is tight, focusing on Bloom’s ambition to rise up the ranks in L.A.’s news broadcasting industry. One of the best scenes in the movie happens inside a car when Bloom’s apprentice, Rick (Riz Ahmed), who starts out as gullible looking lad, wises up to his master’s antics and tries to extort money from him for keeping mum. Having been familiarized with the unpredictability of Bloom, you’ll be on the edge of your seat hoping Rick stops talking, because Bloom is capable of choking him to death in the blink of an eye. The way the conversation pans out is a testament to Gilroy’s skill. With majority of the scenes shot in the night, the tense scenes turn out to be more effective.

The most chilling parts of Nightcrawler involve no blood or violence, it involves Jake Gyllenhaal acting all earnest and personable—his pale face glows with colour, and his once sunken eyes start twinkling with excitement as he gets enamored with the world of late night news broadcasting. Gilroy has given Jake Gyllenhaal the role of a lifetime, and he crawls into your skin slowly and steadily.

Nightcrawler is an out-and-out Jake Gyllenhaal film, with sunken eyes that seldom blink, and an unpredictable persona about him, his portrayal of a sociopath will send shivers down your spine. Louis Bloom isn’t just a psycho who is in the business to earn a paycheck; he’s a psycho who feels is destined for greater things. He demands the best from his sole employee, having gotten a little taste of success, Lou Bloom is a deluded psycho with grand plans of starting his own company. With one of his finest roles till date, Gyllenhaal is a shoo-in for the Oscars’ contenders come the awards season. It is astounding to see the range of characters he’s portrayed over the years, from a gay cowboy (Brokeback Mountain) to an introverted cartoonist (Zodiac) to a tough-as-nails detective (Prisoners), and now all beefed up for his forthcoming project as a boxer in Southpaw, it is a shame that he is criminally underappreciated. Hopefully, a solo outing like Nightcrawler could make people sit up and take notice of his talent.

Nightcrawler is a story of flawed people who’ll do anything to get ahead in the world. There is no single character you’d feel sorry for or empathize with, yet, it is a riveting watch that keeps you hooked thanks to a splendid Jake Gyllenhaal.

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