Recently, my wife and I had the rare opportunity to go on a date night. For those of you who don’t know, I recently graduated college, my wife is still in school, and our son is almost 14 months old. Date nights don’t happen often in our home.
We found someone to babysit our son, and went out for dinner and a movie. We decided that we were going to go see “Nightcrawler” starring Jake Gyllenhaal. From the second I saw the trailer the movie looked immensely fascinating mostly because the story for once seemed original.
I must begin by saying that Jake Gyllenhaal delivered the performance of his career in this movie. It was one of the most convincing and memorable performances I’ve ever seen. Dan Gilroy also directed and wrote an entertaining story in his debut.
That’s it for the positives. That is genuinely it for the good things to say about this movie.
Because the actual methods that Louis Bloom (Gyllenhaal) took to achieve his goals were so twisted and dark that any positive the movie was trying to convey was ruined. In the character of Louis Bloom we find someone who is almost a savant in his intelligence. The man spends hours on end studying what he wants to learn (despite his admittedly low formal education), has little social capabilities, and is desperate enough to do whatever is “necessary” to him to achieve his goals.
The movie opens with beautiful scenes of Los Angeles as a radio track plays in the background mentioning the difficulty of job hunting in the current economy. The camera stops on Bloom trespassing on closed business grounds stealing fencing in order to pawn it off. He is stopped by a security guard who asks for Bloom’s ID. Here is our first glimpse into the darkness of Bloom. As Bloom hands the security guard his ID, he tackles the guard to the ground, a struggle ensues, and the scene changes showing Bloom wearing the security guards’ watch (implying murder).
Bloom is portrayed throughout this movie as someone who is desperate for money, forcing himself into job interviews, and doing literally whatever is necessary to make money. The fascinating thing about this though is that Bloom never sells this clearly expensive watch for money.
He wears it the entire movie almost as a badge of honor.
Every time that watch appears on screen it forces you to recall the fact that Bloom murdered someone and is proud of it.
The next scene takes us to the plot of the story. Bloom drives past an automobile accident on the interstate and stops his car along the side of the road. As two police officers are pulling a screaming woman from a burning vehicle, Bloom simply stands there and watches while a freelance news crew films the entire scene.
It’s from this event that the plot is delivered. Bloom starts his own freelance news business, hiring an unemployed young man named Rick as his intern (footnote: Bloom acquired his police scanner and video camera by stealing a touring bike in town and selling it to a pawn shop).
Bloom begins his career by filming whatever news stories he can, and selling them to a low-level news producer named Nina. Nina is an older woman and is in charge of choosing what gets shown on the news station. She describes her station as a “woman running down the street with her throat slit.” At this same time, Bloom strikes up a rivalry with the same news team that arrived on the scene on the side of the interstate earlier.
Throughout their rivalry, Bloom and Mayhem News (Bloom’s Rival) trade blows arriving at breaking news scenes. Their rivalry comes to a head when Bloom arrives late at a scene (because of Rick’s incompetence), and the owner of Mayhem News rubs it in his face. Bloom decides to repay the favor by, get this, sabotaging their van, and causing the van’s steering to fail. Result: van and rival news team get in a horrific crash, and guess who arrives on the scene to film the medics lifting the owner from the van? Yep, Bloom. Bloom stares down the bloodied and broken body of his chief competitor with a face so dark and twisted that screamed of revelry and pride in yet another murder.
I wish I could say it gets better from here, but the rabbit hole just gets darker. Bloom then goes on to film several news casts, eventually learning that he can do his job better. He does this by fabricating the news, crossing police lines into private homes, filming people against their will, and filming people dying rather than helping them. He drags corpses into better sight lines so he can film a better “money shot”, extorts Nina into sexual gratification (off screen, thankfully), and then puts people in deliberate danger by withholding information from the police. His purpose? Making money.
Here’s how Bloom put together his final illusion.
He arrived on the scene of a break-in located in a rich neighborhood. He made it before the police showed up. He parks his car, and rushes inside. As he’s about to go inside, he sees gun flashes light up the house. He hides in the hedges and catches 2 men on film running out of the house, and into their van. He gets their identities, and their license plates on film.
He runs inside the house and films the corpses of the people who these men murdered. He then sells the footage to Nina, who is constantly being reprimanded by her public relations staff for showing Bloom’s footage. Footnote: The only people with any moral fiber in this entire film are these PR reps, the detective, and Rick. At this point, Bloom has infected almost everyone that he has come in contact with. Nina praises Bloom telling her news team that Bloom is “inspiring” everyone to reach for more in life. A dark and twisted soul with ambition and no moral compass had won over the people (big surprise).
The story ends with Bloom neglecting to tell the police about the shooters. Why? Because he wants them to be captured in a populated area where there is high danger, high violence, and the perfect “money shot.” Bloom and Rick follow the shooters to a Chinese restaurant with some civilians grabbing an early morning meal. Bloom calls the police and has Rick film the coming conflict from a separate angle. The police arrive and begin a firefight inside this restaurant. 3 civilians die, one police officer is hospitalized, and one of the criminals is killed. The other is wounded, but drives off and a dramatic car chase begins. Bloom and Rick film the car chase (albeit from tailgating the police car). Police gets sideswiped running through a red light, criminal 2’s SUV gets flipped over and screeches to a halt. Bloom stops the car, and runs over to film the corpse of the criminal. Bloom tells Rick “He’s dead,” and to take over filming the criminal, while he runs over to film the police car.
Rick tells Bloom that he is twisted and evil and that all this is their fault for not doing the right thing in the first place. Rick looks down at his viewfinder on his camera, and sees the the criminal’s head move. I’m sure you know what happens next, but here’s how it goes down.
Rick: “Hey, this guy’s still a…”
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Rick goes down as three bullets rip through his torso. Bloom then walks over to Rick, and films his last moments of life. Rick knew it, we knew it. Bloom knew the criminal was alive, and allowed Rick to be murdered simply because Rick was becoming a “problem” for Bloom’s company. Rick had to die, because Bloom couldn’t afford Rick’s want of more money, and more clout in the company. Bloom set him up, just like his news shots.
The movie ends with Bloom addressing his newest interns, and telling them that they are “key components” to his growing business.
There you have it. Yes, the main character of this movie is the bad guy, clearly. The director does want us to see that Bloom is the bad guy. Problem: Bloom is held in high regard by every character in this movie except for 4. Bloom is rewarded again, and again, and again for his highly illegal, and unethical actions. Bloom sees himself as a good person, never believes he is doing anything wrong, and has 0 problems manipulating, betraying, and crushing everyone around him. It’s survival of the fittest, and Bloom wants it more than anyone else. By caring for no one but himself, Bloom came out on top.
This movie’s premise could easily read thus: It doesn’t matter who you step on to get where you’re going.
The trailer asked the question: “How far would you go for the American dream?”
Bloom’s American dream was paved with the blood of decent people. Our protagonist, ladies and gentlemen.
Don’t waste your money on this putrefaction. Don’t even give it the time of day. Is it a compelling story? Yes. Is it worth hearing evil praised and honored so callously? Absolutely not. Bloom saw people as mere animals, and who can blame him? That’s what the world system has taught us. In the evolutionary scheme we are mere animals, and when people are told that they’re animals, that’s exactly what you get.
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Photo credit: http://www.cultjer.com/jake-gyllenhaal-on-the-bloody-stairs-filming-nightcrawler