"I'm focusing on framing."
Jake Gyllenhall gives a career consolidating performance as introvert Louis Bloom, a thief, a loner, an entrepreneur. Set in Los Angeles we are exposed to a very real contemporary America, living in the fast lane of the digital age where morals take a back seat on the ride to the top. Dan Gilroy of previous writing credit for The Bourne Legacy presents his directorial debut Nightcrawler, a story about Lou, his dreams, aspirations, and ability to adapt and learn quickly in an industry that is just as fast and just as demanding as Lou’s own goals. Referred to as ‘stringers’ or ‘nightcrawlers’ throughout the film Lou pursues the life of an L.A. crime journalist who records and sells footage of night crime, or anything that bleeds. Afterall, “if it bleeds, it leads.”
Louis Bloom is immediately identifiable as a passionate, determined, and ambitious individual, but beneath the charade of confidence there are no lewd or wavering morals on show, just corrupting immorality consumed by crime and a determination to reach the top. Lou Bloom is inherently Machiavellian. He deceives and manipulates for personal gain with an end goal in sight. Although responsive to the needs of modern society, especially the current economic state his sympathy is superficial even if we detect a hint of private empathy. Social Darwinism and Machiavellian principles underscore the approach of the film and likewise Lou’s attitude to life and relationships. Initially modest with the sale of his first video to Nina, the morning news director of KWLA, a local television station, he eventually bullies his way onto the nightcrawler scene and begins forging a destructive path to fulfill his chilling entrepreneurial vision.
Much like how Lou has a business model for his Video Production News business so to does Dan Gilroy in his intimate presentation of untapped potential. The clear and smooth flowing story that revolves around Lou has an honest, if dishonest and morally corrupting, direction. From the trailer I was expecting a psychological thriller with a grittiness on par with a french prison drama but the glittery attraction of L.A. was clearly too much to ignore. Lou begins to develop his knowledge of camera techniques, police codes and scanner language and as an audience we are drawn into the criminal world of nighttime L.A. Lou aims to draw his audience in and transcend the barriers separating the audience from reality. The cinematography from Robert Elswit is fantastic and following Lou’s lesson in camera technique the film takes a sinister and direct turn of approach. We begin to view the world through Lou’s camera, not in a Blair Witch Project way, but in a way that exemplifies Lou’s perfectionism over personal framing of his own shots for both the L.A. television audience but also the cinema audience. Dan Gilroy recognises what humans want to see, he shines a light on the darkest corners of our inner psyche and we aren’t turned away in disgust. On more than one occasion we are exposed to a very real close-up of a subject’s final moments. For that is how Lou sees them, people are money in his eyes, a means to an end, people want to see this and he knows that despite the decrease in L.A. crime over the years more and more airtime is given to urban and suburban crime. He understands that his work is valuable in the current market and exploits Nina’s desperation for his footage, forcing a reluctantly dependent relationship between the two.
Against this predominantly immoral tale Lou’s employee, never friend, Rick (Riz Ahmed) represents the audience’s moral compass and diametric opposite of Lou. Lou epitomises a physical representation of the original American Dream, Rick merely embodies the all too familiar haunting and hoping dream of the average American citizen and in Gilroy’s dog-eat-dog world there can only be one winner, those that seize an opportunity, or those that let them pass by.
The driving theme of social manipulation centred around the American dream and Lou’s determined approach to reach the top is capped off with some brilliant scenes drawing on the action and thriller genres. Creating an uncomfortable atmosphere for the audience at times Dan Gilroy, a new director and relatively inexperienced industry-man compared to the track record of say Martin Scorsese, expertly presents the chilling realism of Machiavellian immorality something that other films, such as The Wolf of Wall Street detract from and fail to pull off. Where other films fall short Nightcrawler is a powerful reminder of the determination of immorality and deserves a Must-see rating.
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