Sunday, 14 December 2014


Dan Gilroy, 2014, US

Or the American Dream is for assholes. Something like that. This could be seen on a double-bill with Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street”.

Jake Gyllenhall as Louis Bloom is a slime-ball: not particularly likeable but he knows the right things to say when he needs to. He is not a cool guy, but he can spin a tale that makes him sound more important than he actually is; he knows how to spin and he knows how to use his leverage. He’ll use this rather than genuine friendship and he’ll do what it takes to get ahead. He’s a true sociopath, in fact. It’s a blistering performance by Gyllenhall, a career best. By the time he is word-bullying TV executive Nina (Rene Russo) for sex, you can hear in the script why some consider this the best film of the year. Writer-Director Dan Gilroy’s script positively throbs with sardonic black humour. It’s not a comedy but, like a horror, you might find yourself chuckling at Gyllenhall’s outrageousness.

Louis Bloom has nothing: no back story, nothing to fix him in place, nothing to lose. He is a blank slate looking for his chance, for his business opportunity, which he finds when he stumbles upon a film crew filming a car crash and realises that he can do that. 

Chris Cabin notes the moments where Louis Bloom moves a corpse so it is more photogenic and, of course, there is the moment where Bloom walks around a fresh murder site to film it in the most cinematic way possible. Bloom himself states that doing so is crucial. Cabin rightfully prods at this as the point where the film associates Bloom with the film director’s trade: always making murder and death look at their most filmable. Perhaps ‘staged’ is a better term: the giallo genre thrives on this. Cabin takes on Gilroy:

“Sadly, he doesn't develop this deeply alluring aspect of his narrative. Instead, he takes the moral high ground via Ahmed's conflicted character, and in a final twist, provides a shallowly cynical condemnation of the press that reveals a pointed preference for banal pessimism over further exploration of how his own profession thrives off of illicit, even sexy images of murder, pain, and blood”

But I don’t think that is the film that “Nightcrawler” is: it has far more to do with the aforementioned “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Cheap Tricks” than it does the films that directly accuse the audience, like “Funny Games” or “Peeping Tom. The other criticism is that “Nightcrawler” chooses easy and old targets, but as “car crash TV” is currently flourishing, I don’t believe this holds for long. Besides, I saw “Nightcrawler” as far more allegorical and that the world of TV was just one facet of a larger satire. I don’t even think it is subtext: like “Killing them Softly” or “Map to the Stars”, the intent is on top. This is about how those without scruples make business successes. It’s about what people will do to make money.

But “Nightcrawler” is also an excellent character study about a man who is able to go that extra moral-less inch to get what he wants: cash and power. The American capitalist dream is, here, that you will stumble upon a car crash and find away to exploit it; but you must be the one to go and to do what others will not. There is nothing Louis Bloom will not do to achieve his goal: that’s the American Dream right there. At the end, he has taken his chances and is on his way up, through the loopholes.

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