Nightcrawler, on the surface is a slow creeping story of one man’s following of the American Dream. Yet not the message of optimism and hope the audience associate with the pursuit of happiness, as the protagonist leads us on an apathetic foray of what must be done to get ahead in today’s climate. Produced in a time of real life examples of phone hacking scandals and opaque ethics, the movie is a thematic statement about the degradation of media ethics.
Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhall) is a young malnourished entrepreneur who stumbles into freelance crime journalism by chance. Patiently attending his police scanner for the next headline story and racing to the scene of the crime (often before the police) to record the day’s disastrous shootings and accidents, in order to sell directly to media outlets. Gyllenhall deliberately lost 20lbs to play this role, to present Bloom’s emaciated physique not only for the dire straits of his poverty stricken circumstances but also as a metaphor for the characters hunger for achievement. Bloom’s poverty is constantly juxtaposed to the affluence of the American Dream via car showrooms, TV commercials and other American symbols of wealth. Initially we see Bloom doing whatever is necessary to get by, from beating a night security guard after being confronted for stealing copper to the innuendo of ‘turning tricks’ (male prostituition) to make ends meet. Bloom’s capability of doing whatever is necessary to get ahead in life sinks to radical depths as he realises the market potential for his new line of work.
Bloom is an extraordinarily disturbing character, a robot programmed with self-help and corporate marketing vocabulary via internet self education, presenting a veneer of humanity as a disguise. The only time he exhibits frustration or elation is at the hindrance or emancipation of his own narcissistic achievement. The audience acutely becomes aware we are observing a psychopath in the darkest sense hiding behind a disarming smile, intense eyes and spurious charm as camouflage, copying behaviours to delude his peers he is fact human. Unable or unwilling to connect with humans, the only empathy Bloom exudes is to the plant he consistently waters. His indifference to the violence he witnesses does not concern him to the extent that he is willing to not only choreograph crime scenes to improve his success but eventually create them to preempt the recording of breaking headlines.
Gyllenhall’s anorexic grim reaper bolsters his macabre voyeurism through always appearing behind a lens. Whether this be his nocturnal perception through his video camera or the sunglasses he hides behind at day time avoid the light. But Bloom is a product of his environment, a predator in an already prevalent food chain, easily finding his place in a Darwinian ecosystem. Yet Bloom’s peeping Tom mentality is a reflection of our own, he is able to commidify misery and market gratuitous violence because there is a ravenous requirement for public consumption of his maleficent activities. After all, Bloom is merely a benefactor of a news corporations patronage.
With beautiful urban cinematography Nightcrawler will undoubtedly draw parallels to Michael Mann’s cinematography with its pathology of unconventional LA locations, digital filming of night sequences and even the use of parallels between coyotes to the protagonist. The movie is a success not only as a character study of one man’s psychopathy but a commentary of the parallel between corporate moral transgression and career enhancement – a theme we are all too familiar with in this day and age. A statement on the media’s spectrum of anguish, people don’t care about a ‘carjacking in Compton’, this has no market value, it is the stories of minority perpetrators against the white middle class which are worthy of reporting. News corporations have no desire to remedy the conditions of crime, instead of education its only concern is bias sensationalism. A solid 4 stars out of 5.
Photo Credit: Open Road Films