Brainflow Feed

That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, they revolve mostly around films.)

Nightcrawler

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014 6:31 pm—Film

Nightcrawler (USA 2014, Crime/Drama/Thriller), Writer/Director: Dan Gilroy

Just in time for Halloween, Nightcrawler brings us the ghoulish Lou Bloom, a thief-turned-snuff-filmmaker (okay, technically, turned freelance videographer who captures overnight carnage for the morning news) whose creepy exterior hides an even scarier inner demon. This haunted creature is all about the tricks; fortunately, the film itself is a skillfully made, thought-provoking treat—as long as you like hard candy.

When Nightcrawler opens, Lou (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a petty thief skulking around Los Angeles after hours, snipping chain link fences and scrounging for valuable trinkets. But when he stumbles on a bloody car crash and sees videographers (or “stringers”) snapping up the footage, he discovers his true calling.

Lou sells his footage to Nina Romina (Rene Russo), the news director at a struggling TV station, whose vulnerable tenure makes her an ideal target for Lou’s exploits and exploitations. Before long, he climbs the slippery ladder of success—never mind if he has to crush a few fingers (or throats) along the way; in fact, so much better.

Whether he’s slinking past police DO NOT CROSS barriers or breaking moral boundaries, Lou quickly proves there really is no line he won’t cross. And it works; with hard work, ruthless dedication and a little bloodlust, anyone can make it in today’s world. Welcome to the American Nightmare.

Nightcrawler offers its own grisly exposé on a number of news items, all with its particular brand of dark, satirical humour. There’s the shaky economy, in which unpaid interns and underpaid workers abound, not to mention the criminals who hire them. Lou fast-talks derelict Rick (Riz Ahmed) into becoming his assistant for a meager $30 per night—a “raise” that brings a smile of relief to the poor man’s face. Nightcrawler also preys on our collective taste for the sensational and our obsession with the media. The more graphic Lou’s footage gets, the higher Nina’s ratings soar; as they say, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

The film portrays a world in darkness. I mean that literally; most of Nightcrawler takes place at night, when creatures like Lou slink out of hiding to go on the prowl. But more than that, the film depicts a world in which nearly everyone is susceptible to corruption, and where life is so grim that people look to escape from the growing darkness in any way they can. Even if it means watching news segments that brutally depict human tragedy, and human depravity, in gross detail.

In Nightcrawler’s world, no one is more depraved than Lou himself. Yet he has crafted his identity from the influences of the world at large—from the rest of us. A sociopath looking to fill his emptiness, he gleans his identity from the Internet. He admits he never had much of a formal education, but believes “you can find most anything if you look hard enough.” So he’s an autodidact, with the Web is his primary thesis advisor.

In many an aggressive monologue, Lou doles out catchphrases and motivational jargon, dredging up pat philosophies and self-help mantras to justify just about all his actions. But for all his talk, he can’t conceal the hollowness at his core.

Lou speaks volumes when he delivers the film’s opening line: “I’m lost.” He’s gone off course, and so has the world he’s trying to manipulate.

More than lost, Lou is also hungry. I heard an interview in which Gyllenhaal describes his character as a coyote: vicious and predatory, in search of his next meal. You can see Gyllenhaal’s artistic choice in his performance; in the way Lou sidles up to others inappropriately, gauging their reactions, getting as close as he can, unperturbed when they try to shoo him off. Okay, so Lou Bloom’s embodiment of a coyote is more than a little deranged, maybe even rabid. But you get the idea; he’s a creature of the night, and he’s out for the kill.

It’s a transformative performance from Gyllenhaal, who seems intent on pushing the boundaries of his art and craft (see the Enemy review from March 2014, the Prisoners review from September 2013 and the If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet review from October 2012). With Nightcrawler, he’s definitely reached another level in an already impressive career. His misanthropic, psychopathic Lou is as convincing as he is horrifying.

Gyllenhaal is backed by stellar performances from the entire cast, including a pitch-perfect Russo who eerily steers Nina over a rather disturbing character arc, as well as an outstanding Ahmed, and a compelling Bill Paxton as competing videographer Joe Loder. But there’s no question that Nightcrawler belongs to Gyllenhaal—and of course to writer/director Dan Gilroy, who envisioned it all and who makes a staggering directorial debut, after penning flicks such as Real Steel and The Bourne Legacy.

Kudos to all on a great film, and thanks for the thrills and chills; I couldn’t have asked for a better Halloween treat.

*            *            *

Thanks also to GC and NC for the company and the candy!

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