Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Movie with Abe: Nightcrawler

Directed by Dan Gilroy
Released October 31, 2014

There’s a line between creepy and scary that often defines thrillers. There are no ghosts jumping out of the darkness to make you scream, but there’s definitely something uneasy going on that merits fear of a certain kind. That feeling can be just as effective in dramas, where a protagonist is far from likeable because of his despicable behavior, yet he or she remains a magnetic central figure. That’s exactly the case with “Nightcrawler,” the story of an asocial man who takes an interest in taking video for television news and isn’t prepared to let emotion or humanity get in the way of being tremendously successful.

Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is first seen cutting away at a fence, clearly somewhere he is not supposed to be. He plays dumb when a security guard arrives, chatting with him in a way that feels all too friendly, and, before long, he gains the upper hand and is seen in the next scene driving away while wearing the guard’s watch. Lou arrives with a car full of stolen goods and makes a sale to a construction site foreman. He then pitches himself as the ideal employee, listing a number of reasons that his qualifications and excitement for the field recommend him. When he is dismissed as a thief, Lou sets his sights on a new profession entirely, and begins learning how to become the best in that field, selling his first footage to a bloodthirsty producer (Rene Russo) and then hiring an assistant (Riz Ahmed) immediately thereafter, applauding himself for his meteoric rise to the top.

There is something off about Lou that Gyllenhaal captures in his performance: a sense of awe and admiration when he sees a catastrophe and his interpretation of that moment into something marketable and claimable as a product. Lou delivers many speeches in which he rattles off supporting arguments that sound inherently logical and well-rehearsed, and he is convinced each time that what he says might as well be law. Those with whom he interacts most – Nina, a producer desperate for gory, eye-catching content to help her keep her job, and Rick, who applied to a position with no job description because he needed the money in order to stay off the streets – are hardly discerning, and therefore Lou’s behavior isn’t flagged by a surrogate stand-in for the audience as not okay.

Gyllenhaal, who delivered another strong and unnerving turn earlier this year in “Enemy,” has deservedly been earning accolades for his performance, making Lou fascinating and seem like he could actually list. The film, on the other hand, is so dark and unoptimistic that it’s difficult to decide whether to take its events at face value, to decide whether or not Lou could manage to go around as he does without any scrutiny, combing the underbelly of Los Angeles for its most horrifying, shocking events. “Nightcrawler” is a perplexing but captivating experience, one worthy of examination but one that cannot be easily catalogued.


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