Tuesday, 4 November 2014
In Lou Bloom, the central character of Nightcrawler, the gaunt faced wide eyed star Jake Gyllenhaal and first time director and screenwriter Dan Gilroy has given us a truly disturbing society made creation and this generation's Travis Bickle.
However, where Taxi Driver's Bickle felt compelled to nocturnally roam the scummy, crime ridden streets and protect his infatuations, Bloom has no such moral righteousness in his makeup. In fact, he's utterly devoid of morals as befits a man who has hungrily lapped up America's offensive TV news coverage and the cod managerial speech found in online business classes/self help guides. He's out simply to ambulance chase the violent crimes and horrific accidents across LA, selling his footage to a local news station to help him make something of himself and rise out of unemployment during the economic slump.
He's also without charm or personal skills - though he himself would disagree - and it is here that he is also a little reminiscent of that other great Scorsese/De Niro character, Rupert Pupkin from The King of Comedy. It's just as cringemaking to watch Bloom try and ingratiate and endear himself to people (or even flirt with, and let's use that term loosely, as he does Rene Russo's excellent, crime hungry ratings chasing TV news director) especially those he believes can help him further his career and realise his potential, as it was to see Pupkin. Equally we are acutely aware of Bloom's monstrous side, specifically in scenes alongside his hapless assistant played by a wonderfully nervy Riz Ahmed. Several of the people Bloom comes into contact with will underestimate him, believing him to be weird and a little nerdy, but it is we, the viewer, who is left to wonder just what estimation we should have of Bloom; could it be that he has extreme Aspergers or is it perhaps more accurate to claim he has severe sociopathic tendencies? As Bloom himself says at one key chilling point, it isn't that he doesn't get people, it's that he doesn't like them.
But these comparisons aren't to say that Gilroy and Gyllenhaal haven't given us something truly special in itself. The commitment Gyllenhaal gives to the role (dropping 20 to 30 pounds and adopting a bug eyed unblinking piercing gaze that makes his terrifying eyes seem like an extension of the tools of his trade - the camera) and the finely crafted world that Gilroy presents - an LA that is a neon flooded shimmering heat haze hell, complimented greatly by the drenched guitars of James Newton Howard's score - marks this out as not only one of the films of the year but also one of the films for this age with a scalpel sharp satire on scare mongering TV journalism that is tremendously satisfying to watch for anyone who has an interest in that subject and and anxiety for what the depths it plumbs to says about us. You really have to hand it to the first time director, it's a truly impressive feat to hit the ground running the way he has.
If I could single out one, incredibly minor flaw, it is that perhaps it would have been more appropriate to drip feed us the notion that Bloom is capable of extremely dark things, instead of having it signposted to us in the opening minute. But this remains a nasty, darkly funny film that I absolutely recommend.