Wednesday, November 5, 2014

CURRENT REELS: DAN GILROY'S "NIGHTCRAWLER"


NO SPOILERS. Admittedly, nearly half the motivation to see this film came from some promising car chases involving my ultimate dream vehicle, the Dodge Challenger. The chases did not disappoint in the least. They were spectacular. The car was the star. Watching it zoom past on the massive screen as its engine rumbled and roared through the thundering speakers, I felt as though the Gods of automotive and aural heavens were steadily descending upon me. 

Okay, back to the movie. If you want to win the lottery, you have to make the money to buy a ticket, and sociopathic protagonist Lou Bloom is told that his highest form of currency is bodies - the more, the bloodier, the whiter, the richer, the deader - the better. To put it gently, Lou is a bit off. He makes people uncomfortable. His persistence in selling himself as a potentially loyal, hardworking employee is at first endearing, then slightly comical, until it becomes altogether unnerving. His demands, to both the woman who is his boss (Rene Russo) and the homeless man he takes on as an apprentice, are dehumanizing at best. His turn as a stringer sees him thrive in the competitive business all too proficiently and all too quickly. How far will a person with no self-imposed limits or boundaries go? It isn't about propriety, or even a wavering moral compass. Oh no, Lou's isn't a wavering one, it's nonexistent. When there isn't enough carnage, he finds ways to orchestrate it. Better lighting, better angles, a steadier hand with the camera. He becomes, in every sense of the word, the filmmaker.

The film also works as a broader commentary on the way we consume our news. The inner workings of the third rate television station, to which Lou sells his footage, generates fear mongering and sensationalism on a whole other level. There is a brilliant scene where Russo is feeding the anchors lines as they provide a voiceover for one of Lou's more horrific discoveries. Emphasize more fear, the blood, the gore, again, again, keep going, repeat.  She, not unlike Lou, is weaving her own narrative.

As for Jake Gyllenhaal, he looks the part. For me, he has one of those faces that can never fully get lost in a character. No matter how good of an actor he is, the face keeps jolting you back to reality of Jake, the actor. However, he is evolving. He lost himself in Prisoners (2013), and he does so again here. I wouldn't go as far as to say he is unrecognizable, but the specificity of his face no longer distracts, it draws you in. What's more, this film definitely solidifies him as one of the finer actors in his age bracket working today. Thank goodness not all was lost after Prince of Persia (2010).

Many are buzzing..."this is the new Taxi Driver!" - "sociopath showdown - Lou Bloom vs Patrick Bateman!"- "a modern masterpiece!" Well, ignoring the modern cringe-worthiness of the term "masterpiece", I'm most open to the latter. At the very least, this is (so far) my favorite film of the year.

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