There are a lot of films based on true events out at the moment and The Wolf of Wall Street in that sense is no different. However unlike some of those films, which tend to trace the steps of the virtuous and high-minded as they battle through prejudice and other adversities, The Wolf of Wall Street gives audiences a kind of respite, allowing us to revel in the vulgarities of 1980s and 90s banking. The film is a comical retelling of the antics of amoral Jordan Belfort while he was head of brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont, his debauched nights with prostitutes and friends and his drug addiction right up until his conviction for fraud and money laundering followed by his reincarnation as a motivational speaker. After all the ‘banker-bashing’ that has been going on since the 2008 banking crisis it is refreshing to be able to laugh at these characters and to a certain extent Scorsese has done here with bankers what he achieved with gangsters in his earlier films. In some ways this film can also be compared to Goodfellas, in that it is amusingly narrated by the main protagonist on whom the film is primarily focused, features a Pesci-like sidekick and women are either sexual vessels or nagging wives. Scorsese himself has confirmed that there are likenesses between the two films.
Leonardo DiCaprio, who is not known for playing comedy roles, is extremely funny in this film as is the more accustomed Jonah Hill, who plays Donnie Azoff, Belfort’s business partner. There are also some unlikely appearances from the likes of Joanna Lumley, who shares an onscreen pash with DiCaprio, and French actor Jean Dujardin.
The Wolf of Wall Street is an excellent film, filled with energy and wit and should not be missed.
British director Steve McQueen does an excellent job adapting Solomon Northup’s 1853 biographical book 12 Years A Slave about his own experience when he was kidnapped and sold into slavery and sent to New Orleans. Northup, born a free man, lived in New York with his wife and two children, as an accomplished violinist he made his income playing society balls and as a carpenter, but was tricked by two white men and enticed to follow them to Washington to join a fictitious circus, whilst there they got him drunk, destroyed his identification documents and sold him to slave traders under the name of a southern slave called Platt Hamilton.
Chiwetel Ejiofor’s depiction of the conflicted Northup is captivating and heartbreaking as you see him forced to act against his conscience and I expect that he will be nominated for the Best Actor award at the Oscars in March. Likewise I expect Lupita Nyong’o to pick up the Rising Star BAFTA for her portrayal of the brutalised Patsey, the object of slavemaster Epp’s molestations. Fassbender, a McQueen favourite, is on form, as usual, as the cruel alcoholic Epps and Cumberbatch is equally good as the more forgiving but by no means less culpable Ford.
12 Years A Slave is the first Hollywood film to follow a slave narrative and I hope it has paved the way for more to follow. It is an absolute ‘must see’ for the insights, truths and contradictions that it presents. It would be a fully deserving winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture.
A Bourne like film that has a pace that keeps you engaged but won’t leave you feeling like you’ve seen anything new. Safe House promises much with the calibre of an actor like Denzel Washington in the co-lead role opposite a rather good Ryan Reynolds who plays the CIA newbie tasked with running the Cape Town Safe House where Washington’s character is placed after he comes in from the cold. A very typical conspiratorial plot plays out and this is a disappointment as the film promised more. We get glimpses of a film that could have been a psychological thriller between Washington and Reynolds or a masterful spy conspiracy piece. However, neither of these things happen. Think a watered-down version of Washington in the film Man on Fire and Reynolds doing some Bourne type stunts and this is Safe House. An easy action film that’s a little too formulaic to truly get the blood pumping.