Nightcrawler (directed by Dan Gilroy)

Car Crash TV

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In 2001 Jake Gyllenhaal played the iconic character Donnie Darko and thus the benchmark was set by himself for his future film roles. Whilst Gyllenhaal is consistent and frequently excellent in the roles he has played in films such as Brokeback Mountain, Zodiac and Prisoners he, for most people, will always be synonymous with the troubled teen in Richards Kelly’s dark opus. But now with Nightcrawler, Gyllenhaal has created a new character Lou Bloom, to sit alongside the ranks of Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman in terms of idolised giddy manic and who is destined for future cult status. It is also a film where, whilst the other components are admirable, once you have seen Gyllenhaal in the role of Bloom, you cannot imagine anyone else in the role or the film working without him.

Lewis ‘Lou’ Bloom (Gyllenhaal) is an enterprising but small time misfit, we first encounter him stealing copper security fencing and selling it back to the local metal yard. He is though, despite a through sales pitch to the yard owner, unemployable. Bloom heads out into the night, driving the streets of LA when he sees a car ablaze by the side of the road and two policemen dragging a woman from the burning wreck. He stops to look and watches as the crash is filmed by a small crew, led by Bill Paxton’s ‘stringer’ Joe whose simple mantra ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ gives Bloom the incentive to become a stringer too, a freelance crime-scene videographer. Armed with a camera, a police scanner and a car, he begin his nightcrawling, at first with little success but as his ambition and desire grow, he pushes the limits and begins to excel in his dubious pursuit, selling his work to news channel editor Nina (Rene Russo) who takes a shine to his eye for the work.  Nina explains the type of footage they are looking for as ‘screaming woman running down the street with her throat slashed’ and Bloom takes this remit and runs with it, like an animal hunting its prey, he stalks the streets with a hunger for capturing the most violent and horrific footage he can. His singular focus for the ‘story’ leads to disturbing and dangerous consequences, which push beyond the boundaries of morality.

First time director jake 2Dan Gilroy (whose previous work was as a screenwriter for The Bourne Legacy and Real Steel) has created a socially ambiguous ride which cracks at a ferocious pace and commands unwavering attention, it could be a companion piece to Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive, as it delves into the grimy underbelly of the streets of LA. The screen pulsates with a brooding malice, interspersed with flashes of neon nightmares, the world is a dark place that breeds on the mantra of Gordon Gecko, that greed (in whatever form it takes) is good. The direction is at times as controlled and methodical as its character Bloom but then breaks into action, capturing a horrifying accident or shooting an authentic car chase that makes Fast and Furious look like CGI child’s play.

At the jet black heart of Nightcrawler is Jake Gyllenhaal, shed of 30lbs, his puppy dog eyes now hollowed to bug eyed obsession, he is an audacious tour de force. Like the ultimate Apprentice candidate, Bloom wants the all American dream, to have it all, to be his own boss, spouting management jargon with an unflinching self belief that is at times so outlandish but also comical. Reno Russo gets a role to sink her teeth into as station editor Nina, driven by her own need to stay on top of her immoral game and Riz Ahmed as Bloom’s assistant Rick brings a sense of consciousness to the film, he is clearly out of his depth in Bloom’s employment yet is compelled to stay by his need for work.

As we see Blojakeom compile his footage, like a training montage from a sports film, the descriptions of his clips such as horror hijacking and toddler stabbing are juxtaposed with the soundtrack that implies this is the hero’s score, a kind of anthemic tune plays. Is Bloom our ultimate anti-hero? Are we complicit in his actions as we want to see the horror, the type of TV that you, despite its nature, you cannot turn away from?  Is Bloom merely a product of these materialistic times where naked ambition is rewarded? These are sartorial questions that the film may raise but doesn’t ram down your throat; it simply takes you along for the ride to leave you appalled yet sickeningly entertained.  Buckle up for a dark night out.

Gone Girl (directed by David Fincher)

Bawl and Chained

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When Gillian Flynn was writing her, soon to be huge, novel Gone Girl you feel she may have been listening to Joy Division’s Love will tear us apart; such is the disdain for the banality of what marriage can become and what it may lead to. The bedroom is certainly so cold and is turned glacial as David Fincher brings the warped, page turning thriller to the screen.

For anyone familiar with Flynn’s novel, there could be no better choice of director for Gone Girl, with its dark, brooding narrative, harnessing deception and uncertainty, its attention to detail crime elements and its observations on how this plays out in the spotlight of the media. For those who have seen Fincher’s previous work, particularly his underrated crime masterpiece Zodiac, will know he is adept at skilfully bringing these pieces together to great cinematic effect and Flynn herself has commented that when she was approached about making a film of her book, that her choice of director would have been Fincher. Her wish was granted and unlike many authors who sell the rights to their work and leave it in the hands of others, Flynn worked closely with Fincher and wrote the screenplay herself, creating an adaptation that is meticulously faithful but also elevates the source material.

For those who haven’t read the book, Gone Girl is the story of Nick Dunne and his ‘Amazing’ wife Amy, both once successful New York writer types, their careers are hit by the recession. Due to financial troubles and family illness, they decamp back to Nick’s hometown of Missouri but the move puts strain onto a marriage already buckling under the pressure of living up to an unachievable ideal. On the morning of their 5th wedding anniversary, Amy disappears and Nick is left with the aftermath of dealing with his wife’s vanishing whilst becoming wrongly/rightly accused of her murder, embroiled in a trial by (social) media.

To say anymore about the plot would give away many of the serpentine avenues that the narrative takes us on, suffice to say things become very messy and in the hands of Fincher very very dark. Adapting the He Said, She Said structure of the book, the films uses the present and past to drip feed the audience intriguing morsels of Nick and Amy’s lives, changing the allegiance (if any can be formed) that the viewer may take.

Ben Affleck is the perfect encapsulation of Nick Dunne, himself no stranger to the highs and lows in the public eye. Though his experiegone-girl posternce is far less arduous than Dunnes, Affleck has seen himself be the poster boy for success (Good Will Hunting) and then vilified for his choices (Bennifer, Gigli) and walked the line between charm and smarm. It is a delicious piece of casting, his seemingly everyman persona questioned by his villainess chin. Meanwhile Rosamund Pike reaches new depths that have rarely been challenged onscreen, a key player but never the star, the bridesmaid is now the ‘It’ girl. Her ice maiden, groomed to perfection looks are used to precise effect, the slow controlled manner with which she pours over every word spoken is like she is trying to hypnotise the viewer, had Hitchcock still been around you suspect she may have become one of his punished blondes.  The rest of the cast are all uniformly excellent in key/minor roles, particularly Neil Patrick Harris, who grabs his small screen time and leaves a lasting impression as Amy’s creepy ex Desi Collings, he manages to smash his silly sitcom image in a heartbeat.

Fincher directs with the scalpel like diligence that we have become accustomed to, coated in hues of grey by cinematography Jeff Cronenweth and scored with brooding menace by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Gone Girl moves witGone_Girl__Why_the_film_might_just_be_better_than_the_bookh impending threat, moving through genres with assured calculation. Every scene oozes with such a festering meticulousness that you can imagine Fincher behind the camera with a sly grin, revelling in the horror that he has masterminded, one unforgettable scene is orchestrated with such visceral perfection, as good as anything he has done before and ends with an almost comical element.  Such is the venom created onscreen that you become positively giddy from it; at times Gone Girl is the black comedy to end all black comedies.

Like the ultimate battle of the sexes, Gone Girl presents the questions about a modern marriage, the psychology of shifting gender dynamics but does not give us the answers, making the behaviour of our protagonists all the more frightening. Love is a battlefield and Fincher is our leader, leading us into a stylish, dangerous place, where morality is left behind, resentment rides high and after the war is won, we, the audience will be left reeling with battle scars that will remain with us for a long time after.