Thursday, April 30, 2015

DVD of the Week: Nightcrawler

Since our bad experience with the somewhat painful A Million Ways to Die in the West  (spoiler: one of them is probably "being forced to watch comedy movies that aren't actually funny") we've had a few weeks off Saturday Night Movie Night. In fairness I can't blame it on that film, more that we started on Daredevil, and then Z wouldn't actually let me watch anything else until we'd burned through it. Not that I'm complaining, because Daredevil was ace, but we do now have quite the additional backlog of films and telly to catch up with. First off the grid this week was Nightcrawler, whose dark and sinister tone fit right in alongside the dark and sinister adventures we'd just seen in Hells Kitchen. 

We start with being introduced to Jake Gyllenhaal's  Louis Bloom, who appears to grift through the nightlife of LA, somewhat impulsively stealing, mugging, and doing whatever else he needs to do to get by. Throughout the film its a fantastically strange performance - a portrait of a man who seems to have little understanding of how human beings actually work, but instead spouts off his web-taught business speak as if they are secret words of power. It reminded me of Scarlett Johanssen's performance in Under the Skin, someone who looks human but struggles to actually pass for it, although instead of giving an air of being lost, Gyllenhaal is more predatory, and off putting. 

A chance encounter soon give Louis his great calling. Driving past a Traffic Accident and stopping to watch, he witnesses a freelance news crew rushing to film the scene for the morning news. Suddenly he's obsessed, starting with a small camera and his beaten up car, the film charts his rise through the ranks of these "Nightcrawlers", making a living out of filming the everyday tragedies. Much of the second act of the film sets up the world that he crawls into - Rene Russo has a great turn as a desperate News Channel Producer, and Bill Paxton as a fellow Nightcrawler - before building it's denouement around a single, shocking robbery that Louis is able to build his big break out of. 

Nightcrawler is a gripping, tension-filled thriller in which none of it's characters come off well. It's so sordid and seedy you can practically feel the patina on the disk as it pops out of the machine at the end of the film. For all a couple of characters do get to voice the moral outrage that you want someone - anyone - to deliver, it's clear its just toothless noise. This is Louis Bloom's natural environment, this is what he is. It's a great film, with an incredible central performance, and well worth seeing, even if you want a shower afterwards.