Sunday, December 07, 2014

Nightcrawler - breaking news

movie review

Some people will go to unusual lengths to make headlines

People in the news business rush around the clock to satisfy the insatiable appetite of the monster that is the 24-hour news cycle. They do this while simultaneously racing against their competitors to break the biggest stories and bring the latest visuals to our television screens. Inured viewers don’t pause to think about where the footage came from, who shot it, or how it was obtained. But perhaps they should. The breakneck pace and demands of the media machinery leave it susceptible to cracks that could be exploited by those with shaky morals, which is what happens in Nightcrawler, a crime thriller that shows what can transpire when actions are driven by a union of opportunism and depravity.

The story revolves around Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), an unemployed petty thief who ekes out a living by selling stolen scrap metal. By chance, he encounters a camera crew that is out chasing late night news stories so that they can sell the gory footage to local news channels. If there is carnage, the cameramen descend like vultures. Enthralled and inspired, Louis obtains a camcorder and police radio scanner and joins the hunt for tragedies to exploit, selling his clips to Nina (Rene Russo), a producer working the graveyard shift at a flailing network. He subsequently hires homeless drifter Rick (Riz Ahmed) as an ‘intern’, as his sociopathic tendencies start to take over.

Nightcrawler presents a fascinating character study of a disturbed person who is willing to profiteer off the misery of others, and if need be, orchestrate that misery himself. The film also satirises the television news business, taking a swipe at the media’s “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality by giving us a very extreme version of events and showing us how awry things can go if this morbid tendency is not kept in check.

In his directorial debut, screenwriter Dan Gilroy has proved himself a master of creating tension, gradually increasing the intensity of the proceedings as the film goes on till it reaches its climactic clash. He has also equipped his characters with distinct, dark personalities, and chosen very suitable actors to fill each role. Jake Gyllenhaal is terrifyingly impressive in the unsettling part for which he reportedly lost over 20 pounds, and he is perfectly paired with Russo and Ahmed as his partners in crime.

Overall Nightcrawler makes for an intriguing albeit uncomfortable watch as it takes the viewer on a dark journey into the life of a disturbed soul ambitiously following his newfound passion unhindered by things like morals and ethics. Louis isn’t given a detailed backstory, a choice that will please some viewers while leaving others wondering how he became who he is and why he thinks sounding like a cross between a business brochure and a self-help pamphlet is a good thing. Ultimately, Nightcrawler’s fascinating look at an extremely dislikable yet riveting protagonist and the workings of the murky universe he ventures into may not be pleasant viewing, but the movie is very likely to make an impression on viewers and give them something to think about.

- By Sameen Amer
Sunday Magazine, The Express Tribune - 7th December, 2014 *

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