Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street

In 1987, Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) gets a job as a stockbroker in a well known Wall Street firm. Under the guidance of his boss (Matthew McConaughey) to develop a lifestyle of sex and drugs, and taught how to become a talented stockbroker, he eventually creates his own firm, after the collapse of his original company. With trustworthy ally Donnie (Jonah Hill) by his side, he is soon running one of the largest firms around, accompanied by massive parties and near constant drug abuse. However, when the FBI begin investigating his illegal activity, Belfort must invest in a huge money laundering scheme across the world.

There had been so much controversy around this film prior to its release that I didn't know what to expect. Thankfully, The Wolf of Wall Street is really quite incredible. It's not everyone's cup of tea, no. If you're not a fan of relentless swearing, hard drug use and unbelievably graphic sex scenes in films, then steer very clear of this. But, if you don't mind that kind of stuff, it makes The Wolf of Wall Street one hell of a ride. Relatively similar in style to American Hustle, also up for numerous awards this season, this comes out on top. It just doesn't stop; it is packed with energy from beginning to end. It's genuinely quite exhausting, but in such a good way.

This is quite possibly DiCaprio's best acting since 2006's The Departed. If this man doesn't get an Oscar for this, then he's just never going to get one. It's about time, right? The problem here is that Belfort shouldn't really be a likable character. He was an alcoholic, a drug addict and a thief who abused his wife, but Scorsese makes us like him here. This is understandable, as a three hour film with an unlikable protagonist would be an absolute nightmare, but it doesn't feel right. DiCaprio supports this effortlessly. In the earlier scenes, he plays the role with a smart vulnerability that warms us to him, but by the film's final moments, he's flipped our opinions on him so many times it's difficult to know where we're sitting. It's brilliantly done.

I also didn't realise how funny this would be. This was the same with American Hustle, I came out having laughed more than I thought I would. However, it must be said, The Wolf of Wall Street is superior even here. From the first scene, the humour is consistently very strong. The highlight must go to the scene in which Belfort and Donnie take drugs that are years old, and after a delayed reaction, eventually end up insanely high, unable to move. Belfort describes this as a "cerebral palsy effect" and, in a packed screening room, that was about all the dialogue I could make out. The level of laughter throughout this film was so high. It was just brilliant fun.

The problem with this film is its running time. 179 minutes is far too long. Two and a half hours would've been perfect for this, but apparently Scorsese felt that extra half hour was needed. By the time you've reached the film's final act, you can't help but want the credits to start rolling. But, for what its worth, this doesn't take away much from the film. The Wolf of Wall Street is incredible. I have never seen a film with as much energy as this. What I loved most was the commitment from everyone involved; DiCaprio's acting, Scorsese's direction, even Joanna Lumley actually looked like she was enjoying herself for the first time since 1963. And so will you. If you watch this film from beginning to end, and don't find yourself having fun for at least half of it, then you probably aren't trying very hard.

To Summarise: Energetic, exhilarating, exhausting, and supported by a terrific performance from DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street is cinematic entertainment at its very best.

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