Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Wolf of Wall Street

  • Released Internationally on 25/12/13
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 17/01/14
Review (15/01/14)
3-word review: Sex, drugs, stocks.
Scorsese is a genius at what he does, and subtlety is not it. In his latest sprawling character study, he brings to very vivid life the true story of disgraced Wall Street big-shot Jordan Belfort, portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, making this their fifth excellent collaboration on screen.
Belfort rose quickly in the money-obsessed world of stock brokers, also thanks to some delicious early advice from his first boss (portrayed wonderfully in an all-too-brief performance by Matthew McConaughey). Enlisting a trusty side-kick (Jonah Hill, whose dramatic roles now start to eclipse his comedic ones), he sets up his own firm selling suspect stocks to hapless buyers, and getting super rich very quickly in the process. This all happened back in the early 90s, and as expected, a lavish lifestyle ensued. The cult following Belfort had amongst young stock brokers was not dampened, but rather fuelled by, his ridiculously over-the-top life and fame as a dubious trader. Scorsese and DiCaprio hold nothing back in stuffing the office antics, epic parties, endless drugs and countless women in our face, leaving very little to the imagination.
Ultimately, the film does serve as a cautionary tale, with justice and heartbreak catching up with Belfort and his team. But the ride is arguably entertaining enough, and some scenes are in equal parts amusing and disturbing. DiCaprio and Hill excel in the drug scenes, along with a few wonderful camera tricks and director touches. It’s so fast, loud and vivid that three hours fly by. The blood and gore so frequently seen in Scorsese’s films are absent this time around, but the drama and the depravity are clearly not. This is excellent filmmaking, but not for the faint of heart.


Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

  • Released Internationally on 28/11/13
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 01/01/14
Review (01/01/14)

3-word review: Comprehensive, timely biopic.

In what turned out to be a stroke of good (but sad) luck for the filmmakers, and convenient timing for us viewers, this big screen adaptation of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography was being premiered in London on the same night that news of his death swept the world. Not entirely a coincidence, of course, since his health had been waning for a while, but it’s rare for us to be able to sit and watch a well-made, detailed look at an important figure’s life at the same time as he is being remembered worldwide.

There have been a number of films about Mandela in recent years, but none gave us such a broad look at his life and major triumphs as this one. Goodbye Bafana was focused on his time in prison, as seen through the eyes of a racist guard, whilst the better known Invictus focused on a specific time during his presidency. This lengthy but entertaining adaptation spans the time from his early years as a bright lawyer to his involvement in the ANC and his eventual incarceration as a result. We then see a glimpse of what happened inside prison but also on the South African and world stage during those many years, as well as the huge outpouring of emotion and change on his release.

Idris Elba (The Wire, Thor) might not resemble the kind-faced Mandela too much, but he steps into the part enthusiastically and by the end of the film has become the role in all the many facets required. He manages to portray both the suave, lady-charming young lawyer as well as the stately, wise leader that he becomes. Naomie Harris (Skyfall) dons a thick accent to match up to Mandela as his equally spirited and determined second wife, Winnie, who fought his cause through all those many years of being apart.

The film is long, but it needs to cover a lot of ground, and it manages to include all the important political aspects without leaving out the human emotion. The now famous Struggle is mirrored by the smaller scale struggle of a very particular family. The Mandela family had to endure a lot and pay a hefty price, but they were ultimately crucial in the shaping of their country.