Zero-hours noir: Nightcrawler (2014)

Spoilers ahead.

Nightcrawler, written and directed by Dan Gilroy and starring and co-produced by Jake Gyllenhaal, struck me in a number of ways. Its obvious major theme is the morally bankrupt nature of the news media, and TV news in particular. The point is not made subtly: when Rene Russo’s news director asks the company lawyer if they’re covered to broadcast some particularly shocking footage, the latter responds ‘Legally?’ To which Russo sarcastically snaps ‘No, morally. Of course, legally.’

But it is as a satire of a broader, and particularly 21st century, work culture that I found it most interesting. Gyllenhaal’s Lou Bloom is determined to create himself with the help of online business courses and motivational slogans. It’s as if Travis Bickle’s ‘ONE OF THESE DAYS, I’M GONNA GET ORGANIZ-IZED’ sign was an image macro that linked through to a free webinar on building a business strategy, one so inspiring that any thoughts of assassinating political candidates or liberating underage prostitutes were abandoned as insufficiently in line with his core strengths and goals. (Taxi Driver is an obvious reference point for the film, and for Gyllenhaal’s performance, and not just because someone losing 30 pounds to play a role will always call to mind De Niro — Lou, like Travis, is distinguished by his absolute sincerity and earnestness.)

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