This month we have two movies that feature flawed but resolute men as the main protagonists. One is real and one is fictional but both films attempt to teach us, the viewers, about the society we live in. I know, kind of heavy stuff for right before finals, but I’ve got to knock this stuff out before Avengers: Age Of Ultron kicks off our summer blockbuster season. Much as I would love to get on to my dessert, I have to finish my dinner first.
Nightcrawler (2014) [R]
But we’ll get to that in a minute.
Nightcrawler is the directorial debut of Dan Gilroy who has previously written great films like The Fall and not-so-great films like Freejack. It is the story of Lou Bloom, a desperate, petty thief who stumbles into the world of crime journalism in Los Angeles. Driven by greed and ego, Bloom blurs the line between being an observer and a participant in the crimes he films.
Now, I might as well get this out of the way. Yeah, Gyllenhaal is pretty good in this. He does a good job with what Gilroy gives him. He really does carry the movie and I would argue that however much you become invested in Gyllenhaal’s Bloom is directly proportional to how much you will enjoy the film.
And that’s because I really feel like the tone of the movie is wrong. Kudos to Gilroy and crew for picking a tone and carrying it through the film masterfully. If you’ll pardon my reliance on a football analogy here, if you are playing a team that is great against the pass and you decide that your best way to win is by challenging them by passing every chance you get, you have a pretty decent chance of things blowing up in your face. Unfortunately, the same is true with satire.
It may just be me but I felt like Gilroy didn’t get the tone right. It is abundantly clear that the movie is deriding the greed and ambition that not only make Hollywood what it is but are often trumpeted in America as a whole. The problem is, I didn’t really care. It all just felt too forced, too unreal for me to be affected. Don’t get me wrong, they did a great job of carrying a consistent tone through the whole film. I just feel that if they had grounded the movie more in reality and not pushed so hard, they would have gotten their message across in a much more powerful fashion.
7 paws out of 10
Citizenfour (2015) [R]
Because I know this has the potential to get out of hand, let me start off by telling you that I don’t particularly care about what political stance you believe this documentary takes. We’re talking about this as a documentary film, a record of history. I am a cougar. I’m not interested in politics. Please don’t put me on some sort of list.
Now that we got through the disclaimer, we can talk about Citizenfour like rational adults. I don’t often agree with the choices of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences but they got this one right.
Citizenfour is a documentary following director Laura Poitras as she flies to Hong Kong to meet the author of a series of encrypted emails she had received. The author turns out to be Edward Snowden and as the camera rolls, he reveals to Poitras, reporter Glenn Greenwald and reporter Ewen MacAskill that he has information about secret government surveillance protocols and he wants their help in getting the information to the public.
No matter which side of the fence you land on regarding Snowden’s actions, this is an incredible document of a situation and time that has tremendous significance in our daily lives. Poitras lets the events play out in front of the camera and we experience it as if we are there with history.
What strikes me most is how quiet and calm it all seems. There is no dramatic music or stirring speeches delivered by Daniel Day-Lewis or Denzel Washington. I didn’t feel emotionally swept up in the moment. Instead, the viewer is left an observer of decisions and actions that have shaped our collective history. It is a glimpse at the power and paranoia that affect us today and it is gripping.
8.5 paws out of 10