Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception), Jonah Hill (This Is the End), Margot Robbie (About Time), Kyle Chandler (Super 8), Matthew McConaughey (Mud)
Director: Martin Scorsese (The Departed)
Writer: Terence Winter (Boardwalk Empire)
Runtime: 3 hours
Release Date: 25 December (US), 17 January (UK)
Money is a potent object. And with money often follows power. And that power then leads to more money. And so and so forth. The Wolf of Wall Street is an examination of how that vicious cycle can create both incredible highs and life-wrecking lows. It’s a film that follows a trail of excess that flows so far it runs up the walls, and every time you don’t think it can get any crazier, it does.
The Wolf of Wall Street is, more than anything, a character study. It is about Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio), and his life is certainly one rousing story full of sex, drugs and the stock market. In many ways, it is your typical rise and fall tale: man comes in with a plan, revolutionises the system, becomes filthy rich, abuses the power that comes with that, comes out poorer but wiser. But like all great tales, it’s more about the journey than the destination, and Belfort’s journey takes some wonderful detours into depravity. This film is 3 hours long, and nothing you’ve seen in the trailers can prepare you for how jam packed this movie is. Every single line is sharp and witty, and every single one is delivered in the perfect way to maximise the drama or comedy of any given moment. For the most part, it works beautifully. All I can really say negatively about it is that there’s often too much. Don’t get me wrong, every scene is memorable and every line of dialogue is golden, but there is so much material bursting out the seams here that it causes the film to bloat unnecessarily at moments. It’s hard to think that an even longer version of this movie actually exists. And for any of those people complaining about “these people are terrible and we shouldn’t be glorifying them”, get your facts straight. This isn’t a movie you should live your life by. It’s a movie that shows how crazy life can get, and paints its characters as amoral, often ridiculously so, characters. Much like 2013’s other true-life tale of debauchery gone wrong Pain & Gain, you’re supposed to laugh at these guys, not with them.
Leonardo DiCaprio has come along way since being the pretty boy from Titanic, and in recent years has become a truly brilliant actor. His performance as Belfort is one of his best, one full of exuberance, energy and lunacy. You may not like this guy, but you certainly have to respect him. As usual, Scorsese has assembled a cast bursting with talent whether in small or big parts and every one of them does well. Jonah Hill as Belfort’s right-hand man Donnie is entertaining at every second, utilising his years of comedy experience to create one sick son of a b*tch. Margot Robbie is a revelation as Belfort’s femme fatale of a wife, who is just one of the hundreds of women in this film who bare all but she’s got the acting chops to back it up as well. Matthew McConaughey, Jon Favreau, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jean Dujardin, Joanna Lumley, Ethan Suplee; this list goes on. I do not have time to go through everyone in this humongous cast, so I’ll just sum it up by saying everyone knocks it out of the park.
The cinematography on display is gorgeous, full of sweeping shots that just emphasise that lavish nature of the picture. The choreography and scale is truly shown off in several scenes, such as a yacht in one hell of a sh*tstorm or a scene on a plane that redefines the standards at The Mile High Club. The editing is perfectly paced but not always precise continuity wise; a quirk I keep noticing in editor Thelma Schoonmaker’s work. The soundtrack is full of period hits from the late 80’s/early 90’s, and every song is perfectly chosen for each moment.
Martin Scorsese is a master of cinema, and every time he decides to make a movie people pay attention. And with every movie, he reminds you why he is a master. The Wolf of Wall Street is another example of his greatness. It may cover some ground the director covered in Goodfellas or Casino, but nothing in those pictures can match up to the mania on display here. It deserves every piece of awards buzz it’s been getting and provides more memorable scenes and quotes to add to any cinephile’s lexicon than I can count. It’s certainly a long haul, but you’ll be glad you were along for the ride.
FINAL VERDICT: 9.5/10