Friday, 17 January 2014

Movie Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

Much has been made about the graphic nature of this film, particularly concerning the depiction of what some claim is a glamorisation of debauchery. This reminds me a great deal of the criticism that ‘Django Unchained’ received last year when a commotion was made over that film’s violence. While the situation between these two movies is quite similar but they do share one identical aspect: their respective scandals have no business tarnishing the name of the phenomenal filmmaking at work because ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, like ‘Django Unchained’ before it, is an absolute triumph.

In 1987 Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) arrives on Wall Street eager to learn the ways of making money for himself and his clients. In the years that follow, Belfort becomes the head of a firm that heavily engages in securities fraud and corruption allowing him and his cohorts to live a lavish lifestyle whilst the authorities build their case against him.

At its core ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ is a frequently shocking and staggeringly funny account of white-collar crime at its the highest level but it is also a quintessentially American story and a tale of the construction of an empire built on deceit. What makes Jordan Belfort’s story so incredible is the fact that, despite the fantastical nature of the events, it actually happened to him. Very few films can maintain the interest of their audience for 2 hours but ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ goes one step further by clocking in at a sturdy 3 hour runtime, don’t let this alarm you though because honestly I was on the edge of my seat for every second of it.

Belfort's decadence is a defining trait of 'The Wolf of Wall Street'.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s work in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ is a career best, a magnificent tour-de-force performance that is the crown jewel in this masterfully told story of wealth and opulence. DiCaprio’s Belfort had to succeed in order for the film to work so fortunately his portrayal is mesmerisingly tangible and he really becomes the heart and soul of the picture as Belfort’s own greed and hubris allow DiCaprio discover new heights in his potential as an actor. Believe me when I tell you, he has never been better.

Jonah Hill in the role of Donny, Belfort’s second-in-command, is finally able to cement his status as an actor capable of great work. I have never been a fan of Jonah Hill previously but here his talent is undeniable as he somehow manages to keep pace with a DiCaprio firing on all cylinders. Small but critical supporting performances in the film are provided by Matthew McConaughey and Jean Dujardin who portray two equally important figures in Belfort’s life: the man who set him on the path to wealth, and the one who helped him keep it. McConaughey’s brief but unforgettable speech at the beginning of the film perfectly sets the tone for the contemptuous wit of Terence Winter’s screenplay whilst Dujardin’s effortless charisma fits impeccably with slick lawyer he portrays.

Matthew McConaughey's excellent cameo sets the tone for the film.

I really cannot compliment Terence Winter’s terrific writing enough, his utterly genius script is what propels the film’s already superb performances into the stratosphere. Winter’s razor-sharp dialogue is quite reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino at the top of his game yet its distinguishing cynicism and darkly humourous tone make it perfectly suited to a Martin Scorsese picture.

As good as everything else in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ is I have to admit that it is Martin Scorsese I’m most thankful for, his uniquely stylish take on the story makes me glad he was the one in charge as nobody else but him could have made this film what it is. Scorsese is a true master of cinema and this film is all the proof you need to see that the man who made ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘Raging Bull’ has today still got what it takes to deliver an astonishing piece of work. In fact I have no reservations about saying that ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ is a serious contender for the best film the man has ever made.

There was one moment in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ where everything in the film just clicked together for me. It was as if every incredible individual component: The director, the writer, the cast, everyone. They all finally met and delivered their finest work collectively as a unit. This happened during a scene where Jordan Belfort has to give one of his captivatingly ardent speeches to rouse his employees into a moneymaking frenzy. DiCaprio ignites into a passionate and exquisitely written monologue wherein he delivers a line that perfectly sums up the man Jordan Belfort is “There is no nobility in poverty. I have been a rich man, and I have been a poor man. And I choose rich every F**king time”. These speeches are not only a showcase of Leonardo DiCaprio’s stunning range as an actor but of the film itself and of just how tremendous ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ can be.

Jordan Balfort's speeches allow Leonardo DiCaprio to flourish.

‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ is unforgettable cinema, a ‘Goodfellas’ for the new generation. Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese have worked together before in remarkable movies like ‘Gangs of New York’, ‘The Aviator’, and ‘The Departed’ but with this film the two have arrived at their collaborative masterpiece. ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ is without a doubt my favourite film of 2013.

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