Director: Martin Scorsese
Jordan Belfort (DiCaprio) is an aspiring stockbroker, come to New York to make his fortune. Taken under the wing of his successful mentor (McConaughey) he completes his training only to start his career on Black Friday. His company folds and he finds himself working for a company trading in penny stocks, a high-commission manipulative industry that he sees room to exploit. Establishing his own business with his neighbour Donnie (Hill), he bands together a group of ruthless friends to tackle the market on a big scale. Before long, he is rolling in money, marries a beautiful woman (Margot Robbie in an explosive debut) and consuming drugs by the kilo. But as the company's actions become more questionable, they attract the attention of the FBI.
There's strong support from Jonah Hill, whose goofy and flawed bravado props up much of the conflict, while we witness the birth of movie star in Margot Robbie. McConaughey's brief scenes are very McConaughey, while it's fantastic to see Joanna Lumley in a significant and great supporting part.
The real costar of this movie is Scorsese though. This is a film whose direction, editing and cinematography is as important as the characters within it. Sizzling with as much self-assured confidence as Belfort himself, Scorsese's trademark bold cuts and juxtaposed music are at odds with long scenes that hop, skip and jump between terse drama and slapstick comedy. Its laughs are as carefully crafted as its moments of tension; awarding bodies often forget how difficult it is to construct truly good comedy and that box is well and truly ticked here. The camera lingers on and on, draining each ludicrous scene of every drop of humour and rinsing it out for the audience. I laughed a lot. Situations seemed so ludicrous but yet so plausible against this backdrop of excess that it evolved from amusement to laughter to sheer delight. Who knew DiCaprio was such a good comedic actor? And who knew that Scorsese was so in touch with modern and risqué comedy? He plays sex for laughs, he throws in a gay orgy for fun, he shows us how fun drugs can be...
Obviously for every ascendency there is a fall lurking around the corner. This is not a film without ramifications, but we are watching someone delight in their success and as such, this film stands apart from its contemporaries. We've seen countless films that declare that capitalism, greed and drugs are bad, but how many give us that absolutely relatable story of which you would say "I would do exactly the same". For many this may be a challenging concept, but for those hedonists amongst us, this is a celebration of all things decadent, fabulous and brilliant that money can bring. And this relevant, modern and completely topical masterpiece was brought to us by a 72 year old man!
At three hours the film does run slightly long, but that's a minor complaint in the face of such a brilliant film. I would recommend this film to anyone, except maybe your die-hard religious sorts. I've come away wanting to be rich, wanting to take drugs and wanting to be Jordan Belfort, but while this makes it sound like there is no moral heart to this film, that is not the case at all. Central to all of it is the mirror turning on us instead; it's not Belfort we should be judging for his actions but ourselves for revelling in them. At the end of the film the camera is turned, observing an audience delighting in his actions and it's only then that there is pause for thought about what we have just seen, and it takes a master filmmaker to commit so confidently to delighting us right until the last moment, only to make us the villains of the piece. This is nothing short of a superb film and is one of the absolute best films on the Oscar roster this year.