Nightcrawler – A dark and unsettling masterpiece.

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This year brought us so many good movies that it is hard to pick favourites; one can only think about the competition going into the awards. We had Richard Linklater’s Boyhood-a classic story of love, friendship and growing up; We had Interstellar by You-know-who; we also had the mind boggling Birdman, by the visionary Mexican director, Alejandro Inarritu. But slowly making its way through the biggies, and not making any real noise, was a noir thriller-Nightcrawler.

Describing the experience of watching Nightcrawler is pretty hard; firstly, it is hard to pin it down to any specific genre. It is noir, yes, definitely. But it is also a deeply unsettling drama about a man who will go to any lengths to achieve success. It is also a masterfully crafted thriller; Dan Gilroy is at the helm here, who wrote the lesser of the Bourne movies, and the light-hearted Real Steele. The canvas is L.A and its myriad nocturnal tales-crimes mostly. The protagonist is Lou Bloom-portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal-a small time thief, who firstly comes across as only mildly insane. He goes around trying to find jobs, spewing off high-end management and success mantras which he has picked up from the internet. It is unclear why he does that. Unsuccessful in any real venture, he notices the level of crime during the night-time, picks up a camera, and starts shooting.

Lou starts freelancing in L.A’s underbelly, moving among the crime scenes like a sly fox, catching vital glimpses here and there. He makes money in the process, selling videos to a News agency who runs the small crime pieces in the early morning news. Gradually, from underneath the mask of a photographer-cum-salesman, Lou’s level of insanity begins to show. He isn’t desperate to make money; no that’s not the case here. He is enjoying his success as only he can tell; his words are the same management ideas he has picked up, his face brightly lit and smiling. He also takes an assistant, feigning to be the Manager of a fictional company.

Gyllenhaal has given an frightening quality to Lou’s character; you would think he has just arrived in the night out of nowhere, ageless. He is alone, and through the years of his life, he seems to have garnered a hatred for people; anyone really. He is only somewhat educated, and he channels everything through the knowledge he has gleaned from the internet. Lou is a mirror of our troubled times; what being really alone feels like, and what it means to be dangling from the cliff of sanity, fingers slipping bit by bit, and then falling off. It all seems nostalgic, to me at least; He seems to come across as a different version of Robert DeNiro’s Travis Bickle himself. The movie itself feels, in some parts, a homage to Taxi Driver. But where Bickle managed to hold his own and became a hero, Lou, in the blinding glare of his success, becomes a villain. He seems to have no moral code, no life altering dilemmas and no love for any one in general.

All of it comes together in a riveting car-chase at the end of the movie, where Lou is shooting the pursuit in real-time. His partner gets shot in the process and he shoots him dying as well, the horror complete. Jake Gyllenhaal has given the performance of a lifetime here.

Nightcrawler is a modern masterpiece, executed to near-perfection by Dan Gilroy. It goes to show the business-end of TV crime pieces, their fierce reality, how one man’s pursuit of success can affect others around him, and how irrelevant and banal any real news can become in the race to get ratings.

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