REVIEW: Nightcrawler

2 11 2014

NightcrawlerThese days, it seems like a lot to ask for a movie to seriously tackle one topic with the requisite depth to provide satisfaction.  On that criterion, “Nightcrawler” more than succeeds with its blistering critique of the media.  Writer/director Dan Gilroy takes our present “if it bleeds, it leads” local news culture and absolutely skewers it, exposing the obvious immorality caused by its hunger for profits and ratings.

Jake Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom quickly moves from amateur to aesthete in his documentation of Los Angeles’ grisly, gory violence.  With each new recording, he learns how to best appeal to Nina Romina, Rene Russo’s particularly desperate station manager at KWLA.  She seeks footage akin to “a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut” in order to jolt the station’s jittery suburbanite watchers, and Lou is eager to provide that material irrespective of any sense of ethics or decency.

This savage criticism alone would satisfy, yet shockingly, Gilroy is not satisfied with setting his aim on just that target.  Somehow, he manages to use “Nightcrawler” as a vessel for exploring a second major topic: extreme careerism.  The media is also a business where it takes more than whetting a certain appetite to advance oneself.  More than talent, it requires the marketing of oneself to a point where the line between self-promotion and shameless whoring disappears.

Though this Juvenalian satire happens to be moored to an excoriation of broadcast media, “Nightcrawler” could really be about anybody searching for lucrative employment in the business world today.  Gilroy writes Lou Bloom as the desperate post-recessional job seeker followed logically (and sociopathically) into absurdity.  Essentially, he gives us a Joel Osteen for the religion of capitalism, preaching the gospel according to LinkedIn.

Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

Gyllenhaal’s dialogue consists mostly of trite professional maxims and phony corporate self-help platitudes which would likely look patently ridiculous on the page.  Indeed, when Gyllenhaal delivers them in “Nightcrawler,” they ring completely false.  Lou has all the sincere insincerity of an online college commercial (a caliber of institution from which he happened to receive some schooling).

But a look into his eyes, which bulge eerily from his seemingly shrunken head, reveals a man who wholeheartedly believes every hollow word in some deep place of his marrow.  Such a dissonance, amplified by frightening and sustained eye contact, makes Lou Bloom a spine-chilling beast of the highest order.  Save one slightly cliched moment of screaming in the mirror, Gyllenhaal creates this monster almost entirely from suggestion.  “Nightcrawler” maintains a gripping tension less because of what Lou does and more because of what his words imply he could be capable of doing.

Through Lou, Gilroy lays bare the dark underbelly of the language of professional advancement.  What is meant to be a tool for open, clear communications can easily be manipulated into a tool for forcefully exerting one’s sadistic will under the guise of cooperation.  While Lou is probably deranged, the lethal combination of a surplus of (self-)educational opportunities and a dearth of employment opportunities could easily spawn an offshoot in the real world.  A-3halfstars



2 responses

2 11 2014

I saw the film earlier today (review coming tomorrow) and man, it is so dark. Gyllenhaal’s character is so despicable yet oddly engaging to watch. It shows how sick the media is.

2 11 2014

Totally! He’s like a Frank Underwood for broadcast journalism.

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