A Debut: Dan Gilroy’s ‘Nightcrawler’

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* Spoiler alert

Awards season 2015 is brimming with brazenly self-aware stories. Well, no one can say such a thing about mediums on media with 100% certainty because filmmakers so often make the “it’s just a movie” claim like they had no intentions or responsibility about influencing public consciousness about social issues whatsoever, but I’d like to say that the issues presented on-screen in 2014 are, at least for me, undeniably influential, so they must be self-aware.

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So: ‘Nightcrawler’. This movie is so dark and presents such a harsh reality about the press, that is might be hard for viewers to feel ok with having seen. It had me thinking about every thoughtless judgment I ever made about news patterns and being thankful for the skepticism I developed previous to ever seeing this about “news” competition: bloody gory themes pumped out by papers across the country at the same time with alternative resources publishing a broad variety of happenings. Of course it’s about money. If course the decisions are made by a few people and mainly grab by principles of negative attention. The needless gore and false claims on TV news banners are repeatedly concocted in ‘Nightcrawler’ by desperate and depraved characters Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Nina Romina (Rene Russo).

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They, like the similarly desperate industry “professionals” they perform in the film, cross lines of decency as a rule, for profit. There’s a level of exposure these characters give to the way “the media” works against public decency, mainly by creating stories out of crimes and unfortunate events and indirectly taking responsibility for instilling patterns of disturbance and fear in the public because they are supposedly giving them what they “want”. “Want” means what they will watch, which is, of course, not a decision people connect directly to their wants. Generally, a guy turns on the news because he wants to see what’s going on in the world, and, as he sees it, he is being given that information. The vision in ‘Nightcrawler’ is that he is being given what he will watch even if his favorite show is on, and that is something he can’t wrap his head around. Something that grabs and generally scares or disgusts him. He doesn’t realize that he has “power”, because people aren’t programmed to connect the power, particularly market power, they possess to bringing them tokens that leave them feeling utterly powerless.

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Lou and Nina are characters the audience is made to despise because their minds are completely set on targeting a powerless public for their daily bread. Part of the brilliance of the story is that these similar creatures exist on opposite sides of the same coin. One doesn’t have value without the other.

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Yes, they feed off of the public body, but they make up a dysfunctional union in which Lou, who is thoroughly devoid of feelings aside from his wants and needs, punishes Nina without recognizing it as abuse. He has no sense of personal freedom beyond his own desires, so once she helps him thrive, Nina’s existence is Lou’s host body. At the point in which Nina chooses to lose her physical freedom as opposed to her job (remember she is a bloodsucker in her own right), she is recognized as merely a dependent of her host, the masses of paralyzed, disempowered, dull viewers, whereas Lou, lacking all empathy, goes a step beyond depending on Nina’s reputation to thriving in her wake. As the story spirals into a mad chase for Lou’s sense of success, there’s a moment where this creepy, slight, cold man could be caught in his horrific actions. Instead, he proves himself to be invincible. He can have whatever he wants, and no one can catch him simply because he exudes murderous calculation and manipulation. Watch if you dare spend time in the realm of true psychopathy.

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