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What Desperate Times Conceive
Written on 11/08/2014, film first viewed by author on 11/04/2014
The Millennial generation has every right to feel screwed. A post-secondary education is expensive, and even with the degree no one is hiring in a poor economy where layoffs are more the norm. What about creating a new field of work to dominate? There is more fantasy than practicality in that line of thinking. Usually “new fields” are born out of a strange mixture of struggling, luck, and legal back-stabbing. Most of the traditional careers were established in the 1950s or 60s, and good-old-fashioned capitalism has pulverized competition and built families of rich, unopposed fat cats. They only make the rules to keep themselves happy.
In this current situation that breeds desperation, what does one do? Do they go against the system, and become a “hippie” or a “terrorist”? Or, do they get creative within the system? Instead of the traditional course of education, working into a dead end, taxes, and death, where in all cases people lose more money than they make, one could easily take an alternative route. In an age where information is highly accessible via the web, a college education, in the eyes of some, starts to look more like a gimmick. They can learn whatever they want at the click of a mouse. Likewise, it is not too difficult to work for one’s self. Freelancing has become popular amongst companies that don’t want to dish out long-term contracts, and it is neither complicated nor expensive to file an LLC. The key ingredient that is needed to pull off this new kind of work is ambition, the drive to study everything and the will to execute the necessary tasks. Just because one can draw-up a new company and spend hours on a computer does not mean they can slack off on their work ethic. On the contrary, they need to work harder than ever to prove they can actually do what they want to do.
Ambition is one thing never lacking in Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), the protagonist in Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler. Bloom is what one would call a kind of mutation of two mentalities nurtured by two radically different times in history. He is a hard worker, the kind right out of a 1950s television show that accomplishes anything in a scary efficiency and an almost-sick optimism. At the same time, he is a cold, anti-social thief, who will take advantage of a chaotic situation for his own benefit. The combination spawns a lethal head for business, just right for our heartless world of work. On top of all this, Bloom is an excellent learner, a fast one. After witnessing a van of seemingly-renegade cameramen record an accident on the freeway, and discovering what that footage is worth to the right kind of TV news stations, Bloom puts down bolt cutters and scrap metal and picks up a camcorder and a police radio.
Own the original motion picture soundtrack to "Nightcrawler"
The hard worker in Bloom begins to find success in the world of nightcrawling, getting the right footage at the right time, and giving the equally desperate morning news director Nina (Rene Russo) her scoops at Channel 6 News. However, the criminal in Bloom begins to take advantage of accidents and crime scenes, beating the police so far in advance that he can stage perfectly composed frames of blood and mayhem. At Channel 6, he begins to earn the clout to bully and blackmail Nina into giving-in to almost any demand imaginable. As any good capitalist does, Bloom begins to calculate what is unnecessary, and what can be lost to push forward towards the completion of his successful business plan. Not even his competition is safe. Bloom doesn’t get mad. He doesn’t get even. He get’s ahead.
The line between ethical journalism and sensationalism begins to blur for Bloom, just as it has been blurred for a very long time in our real world. The media will exaggerate death tolls in times of tragedy and fill a teleprompter with fiery adjectives. Most people would rather hear about “true” slayings, sex scandals, and drug deals gone awry than hear about the price of grain or how a kid raised money for charity. The news satisfies the human bloodlust, and the news gets good ratings in return. In this way, Nightcrawler holds up a mirror to society. Should we really be in love with what we see staring back?
Gyllenhaal’s performance is haunting, and holds an audience in anticipation. He is the type of character that could do anything. On that same note, this does not make the plot of Nighcrawler “unpredictable”, as some critics have raved. The fact that Bloom is half-unhinged actually makes the veil covering the conclusion quite transparent. It could be said that the ride is more fun than the destination. Robert Elswit’s photography reminds one of the gritty, urban cruises of Taxi Driver, and the psychology of Bloom harks back to 1980s Yuppie-ism with violent undertones found in American Psycho.
Arguably, Louis Bloom does not have a fulfilling character arc. He, himself, never really changes. He never has a personal revelation that transforms his character. Sure, he goes from a scavenger to a powerful, neo-CEO-type, but that is a mere socioeconomically change. Perhaps that is the most damning commentary about modern society. Do people really want to be better human beings, or do they just want to get rich?