In this latest #intothecuttingroom we salivate and analyse (briefly) the cult like awesomeness of the neo-noir thriller Nightcrawler (2014). Written and directed by Dan Gilroy (whose credits include work on the Bourne Legacy 2012), this is a classic.
The film breaks on a lone freeway leading into Los Angeles. Sweeping establishing shots of sprawling night-time Los Angeles; beautiful, mysterious and dark undertones. Our introduction to our main protagonist Louis Bloom sees him trying to break into some form of industrial yard. Before success, a security officer comes onto the scene-mission aborted. In what will become a familiar character trait, Louis Bloom when cornered thinks quickly while initiating full charm offensive. His quasi charm allows him enough time to get close enough to the security guard to unleash thug Louis and lay him out cold.
Through the character and life of the superficially charming Louis Bloom played by Jake Gyllenhaal (who helped produce the film)we explore capitalism, the mass media and human nature. It’s an un-apologetically negative portrayal.
With big aspirations, Louis Bloom epitomises the American Dream/capitalism. The dream where anyone can make it if they are prepared to put in the work. In Louis Bloom’s mind that means doing, whatever is needed. There’s an interesting dichotomy between Louis Bloom’s need to make money (by any means necessary) and his wish to be (at least and initially on the surface) an up standing, law abiding, tax-payer. While that is an aspiration (of sorts) his need for money and success will always win. As we learn, Louis Bloom is a monster behind the glint of his charm.
The media in Nightcrawler is tantamount to a jungle. In it, all manner of monsters (like Louis Bloom) survive and flourish. In Gilroy’s Nightcrawler, the fuel for the mass media is violence, crime and gore. Nightcrawler however points to the obvious fact that the mass media is in fact ‘us’. While ‘we’ can tolerate and like positive stories, the facts are clear: violence, crime and gore sells. Mass media (ergo Louis Bloom et al) are merely the conduit. While Bloom attests “what if my problem wasn’t that I don’t understand people, but I don’t like people?”, Louis Bloom clearly knows what people/ the media crave. He in turn becomes increasingly successful with the TV station KWLA 6 where he sells his footage.
In a telling scene after Bloom witnesses a double murder in action. He enters the house after the murderers leave. He films the victims-one dead, one bloodied and clinging to life. Note Louis Bloom does nothing to help the survivor. His relish is palpable. He works feverishly for the right shots. He forensically films all parts of the house. He ensures the copious amounts of blood are captured in macabre visceral quality. He takes his footage to the news director of the TV station KWLA, Nina Romina played by Rene Russo. With an equally questionable moral compass she wants the footage aired. She is not perturbed by the fact that she will traumatise the victims’ relatives who have not yet been notified of the victims’ deaths. Louis and Romina both know that the footage is news gold.
But Louis Bloom is not done here. Having captured the number plate on the murderers’ car he quickly ascertains who they are. He withholds the information from the police. Louis Bloom is not averse to a criminal offence. He bides his time. A few days later he films the murderers at a late night café. This is the perfect stage for him to film their arrest. He calls the police. The tension palpably builds as Louis Bloom and Rick film the ensuing saga from their vantage points. The police enter the cafe in increasing numbers. The murderers clearly cotton on to their impending arrest. They are in no mood for a quiet surrender. A shoot-out occurs. One of the assailants is killed. Two policemen are shot. A car chase ensues, and the last assailant is eventually shot dead.
Louis Bloom is triumphant. He has captured the pinnacle of TV gold. A Hollywood car chase, deaths in real time and the death of the ‘bad guys’. His footage is raw, disturbing and pushes past the boundaries of what is morally and journalistically acceptable. Viewing the footage Nina Romina is clearly aroused. She simply says, “I’m flawed…it’s, it’s amazing”. The sexual tension between the two is electrifying.
The truth is that virtually all the characters in this film have skewed moral compasses. Whether they are driven by the American dream/capitalism or mass media their survival depends on their ability to not give a fuck. For characters like Rick (played by UK actor Riz Ahmed) he does give a fuck. Rick takes a job as a cameraman with Louis Bloom due to financial desperation, but he clearly displays an inability to survive in this capitalist world. He has a conscience and empathy. He is a goldfish among great whites.
Rick observes Louis Bloom clearly reaping financial rewards. He thinks (and rightly so) that he should also see some financial gain. Naively he tries to haggle a pay rise with Louis Bloom (who is a skilled negotiator). Rick however commits a ‘no-no’ in negotiation and starts with a woefully low figure. Louis Bloom immediately agrees to the woeful figure. Deal complete Rick realises that he has missed a huge opportunity. He asks if he could have got more money? Bloom succinctly responds “absolutely”. Rick’s demise in this world is inevitable.
For Louis Bloom he succeeds in his American Dream. As a stringer he creates enough capital to create his own small news company, complete with brand logo. In a rousing speech to his new employees he tells them that he would not ask them to do anything he would not be prepared to do himself. We are of course privy to the fact that Louis Bloom would do anything for a story. He then takes his new recruits out on the hunt for ‘news’.
The mass media and capitalism have been explored, critiqued and analysed in depth. If you watch this film, expecting some new uncharted angle you will be left disappointed. It’s not about new angles. The film details the dark side of capitalism, the media and human nature. Worryingly, fact is often more brutal and disturbing than fiction but perhaps more worrying. Good guys or girls don’t win. There is no Hollywood ending in that reality.