Victoria Jelinek


The Wolf of Wall Street

The Wolf of Wall StJordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) dreams of being super rich, but after losing his Wall Street job in the crash of 1987, his hopes are dashed. Inspired by a shifty local operation that sells “penny” stocks to working class stiffs, Belfort starts his own dealership, hires a group of his degenerate buddies from high school to work for him, exploits those willing to invest in his firm, and manipulates the market, culminating in outrageous profits for him and millions spent on his decadent lifestyle.

The Wolf of Wall Street has been heralded as the first Scorsese film in a long time with the energy and substance of his early greats, such as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and GoodFellas. This is certainly the material of Scorsese’s classics – a criminal survivor story with an antihero who pushes the audience to the limits of its empathy. Jordan Belfort could be the worst of ‘em, too, as he exploits the poor and revels in his obscene wealth.  The movie clocks in at just under three hours long, also, which is typical of Scorsese. What is different about this Scorsese film is that it’s funny. Jonah Hill, who plays Belfort’s sidekick, is consistently and effortlessly hilarious as a hedonistic dipshit. Mathew McConaughey is comedic, and despite being in the film for only a short time, he leaves an indelible mark on it. It is DiCaprio’s performance, however – versatile, commanding, relaxed, powerful, complex, and humorous – that makes this movie magnetic. This film simmers in one’s thoughts long after leaving the cinema. Yes, it arguably glamorizes drugs, money, sex, arrogance, and selfishness, but I think that this is missing the point. Scorsese isn’t blaming Wall Street for its excesses, he’s pointing the finger at us for allowing the world to become so disturbingly greedy, with its aspirations for wealth and notoriety at any price. This is an invigorating and timely film.

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Inception

Spy-for-hire Dom Cobb (Leonardo Dicaprio) steals ideas in dreams for corporate espionage. Then he’s hired to achieve the ‘impossible’ of planting an idea in the mind of a target, an “inception.”

This film is about life and death and what might be there in between. It’s a huge-event film that is also about grief, faith, and the desire for an after-life so that we can be reunited with those we love and have lost. But Director Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Dark Knight) doesn’t tell us exactly what this film is about and this isn’t a sombre meditation on existentialism. Once again Nolan manages to combine an incredibly cerebral and imaginative concept with blazing gun battles, zero-gravity-fist-fights, and sexy stars.

Like any truly convincing science-fiction, there are rules and boundaries that can’t be broken – but in this film, the boundaries are pretty expansive, as they’re the limits of each character’s imagination. Dicaprio is amazing in this role – he shows a depth of feeling here that appears effortless and entirely anchors the whole film. You’re not aware of Dicaprio the actor, you believe him as the character of Cobb.

This film is gigantic in scale and style – you’re on the edge of your seat for the entire 2.5 hours. The themes are there to be explored (pay attention), but you can just as well sit back and enjoy the glorious spectacle of this thunderous action-packed, heart-wringing original of a film.



Shutter Island

1954: US Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) travels to an offshore asylum for the criminally insane to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a murderess from her cell, but he also wants to confront an imprisoned arsonist he believes was responsible for the death of his wife. Once there, Daniels comes to believe that psychologists Cawley (Ben Kingsley) and Naehring (Max von Sydow) are involved in unethical experiments. The story of criminal investigation turns in on itself as our hero suffers contradictory flashbacks and drug-induced hallucinations.

SHUTTER ISLAND is the nearest thing to a horror film Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) has made since Cape Fear. Based on Dennis Lehane’s novel, it has one of those tricky plots that keeps pulling the rug out from under the hero and with Scorsese’s masterful direction, it’s engaging Film Noir mystery combined with gothic melodrama.