WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
Of all the movies I have seen this year, the ones which have stuck with me long after the credits finished were “Nightcrawler” and “Gone Girl.” Not because they were dark and disturbing, but more so they were compelling tales of people who were removed from our reality because this reality was not one they wanted to live in.
In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how similar “Gone Girl” and “NIghtcrawler” were. Without telling the same story, both films managed to tap into the same sense of pessimism and dread in the world. The characters, while each of them are different enough, share many of the same values and world view. These similarities help to not only make each film worth watching, but amplify each other to make their brethren stronger.
One element these two movies have in common is their bleak view of humanity and the people around the main characters. In “Nightcrawler”, Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) works as a freelance video producer as drives around Los Angeles in trying to film breaking news and then sell the footage to a local news station. Louis is constantly filming violent crimes, death and tragedy, but never feels remorse for the victims he is taping. This is merely his job and they are images on a camera to him.
While in “Gone Girl,” Amy (Rosamund Pike) stages an elaborate plan to make it look like her husband (Ben Affleck) killed her, because he made her lose the life that she loved and got nothing in return. It is revealed throughout the film that Amy has treated every man in her life this way, as her old boyfriend got charged of sexual assault when he never did that to her, and her high school sweet-heart (Neil Patrick Harris) was sent to a mental institution when it was believed that he was stalking Amy. In return, she gets the opportunity to start fresh in life and find some other guy to use until she no longer has any use of him.
To Amy and Louis, people are expendable commodities that can be used on a whim and discarded like used tissues. Their not companions or partners in life, but merely a means to an end. They will keep people around, but only if that will help them in the long run. Once their needs have been fulfilled, they no longer serve any purpose, which means it is time to get rid of them by any means necessary.
If they could have the choice, I’m sure they’d live in a world with nobody else, but what would be the fun in that?
To be fair though, both Amy and Louis live in a world where this way of life becomes necessary. Amy’s parents have taken her life and turning it into a successful series of books, where everything that happens to Amy is made even better by “Amazing Amy.” In her town, the homeless problem is becoming worse and an abandoned mall is now a place of drugs and low lives. And even her husband has given up on the marriage that she desperately tries to save.
Louis, however, cannot find a job to save his life. He put forth as much effort as possible, but every place keeps turning him down. His dream is to make it big in the world, but the world is not interested in what he has to sell. That is until he turns to filming the corruption and violence of the city.
The world in which “Gone Girl” and “Nightcrawler” are set follow a simple logic – You are alone and this world, and the world does not care. Louis and Amy have merely adapted their lifestyle to this logic so that they can succeed and get what they want. If they’re going to be alone, then at least they can be happy with their loneliness. So what if a few people have to suffer because of it? That’s just the way the world works.
Does that justify their actions? Absolutely not. But in their minds, Louis and Amy can live with themselves. Because they have found a way to beat the system and make a name in a world that does not care about them.
Another element that both “Nightcrawler” and “Gone Girl” share is the use of media, in particular news outlets and what television networks choose to show. In “Gone Girl,” the media covers everything about Amy being missing. Every new clue that pops up, talking heads discussing the matter and giving their “professional” opinions, to judging that Nick killed Amy and possibly pushing the issue on the police. This goes even further once Amy returns home and tells Nick that she’s pregnant and intends to announce that to the world. She knows that once that happens, the media would hound Nick if he left her and the world would hate him again. He wouldn’t be able to live in peace if he left the psychotic killer, because of the media.
In this respect, “Gone Girl” reminded me of Billy Wilder’s 1951 film “Ace In The Hole,” a story about a newspaper reporter following a story about a guy trapped in a mine, but chooses not to help him out because then there would be no story. It is that complete disregard of human ethics and kindness towards others, just to make a name for yourself. To get your fifteen minutes of fame, and all it takes is ruining someone’s life.
This is the basis of “Nightcrawler” even down to one of the best lines of the movie, coming from the woman in charge of the news station, “Think of our broadcast as a woman running down the street with her throat cut.”
In both films, the media is over saturated and is hurting more people than it is helping. That news outlets have lost their way, opting out to gain viewers and ratings instead of keeping people informed of the significant events in the world.
When newspapers were created, the publishers intended their writings to keep the public informed on their governments and leaders, to let them know if they were becoming corrupt. Now it is merely talking heads discussing trivial issues or depressing news pieces that are only there to get more people watching. News outlets are being selfish and too far removed from their true intention – to keep people informed.
It is these elements and critiques on the world that keeps “Gone Girl” and “Nightcrawler” relevant, unique, creepy and worth watching. The fact that both films came out within weeks of each other helps to keep them in our minds and makes their messages even stronger. If you have not done so already, go out and see these films. If not for the similarities, then for their alluring yet creepy charm.