Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is his best film in a very long time. Pitch perfect, tight as a drum, with an abstract expressionist’s flair this film is, make no mistake, Stone’s voice – loud, determined and exacting. And it is both an indictment and a mild forgiving of the recent troubles on Wall Street, aka the financial collapse. It is, therefore, both the film itself and the time into which is will be releasing.
It isn’t a perfect ten because of a tiny character flip that happens in what would be the epilogue. In order to explain this, I will not say what happens but I will compare it to another great film’s story. Perhaps even that would give too much away so if you want to skip this part, simply scroll down to where it says END SPOILER.
In Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, it was originally written that Faye Dunaway and her daughter would get away. I’m sure whether that was exactly it but either way, it was a happy ending, or happier. But Polanski being Polanski, he insisted upon a more tragic ending and that, as they say, made a very good film into one of the best films ever made. If Oliver Stone were to be a little more ruthless with his iconic character of Gordon Gekko, we would have a great film and not just a good film. I don’t know whether they care or not that it’s great. Maybe they just want it to do well at the box office. Either way, that character’s CHARACTER is cemented. Like Michael Corleone, there is no point in changing what makes something great. Why would you? Are you going remake yet another JAWS sequel and turn out a reformed “nice” shark? Not in a million years.
Having said that, I still think it’s the best film I’ve seen here at Cannes so far.
Wall Street 2 picks up with Gordon Gecko being released from jail. Shia Labeouf plays Gekko’s soon-to-be son-in-law. Carey Mulligan plays Gekko’s estranged daughter.
The acting is solid across the board. Josh Brolin and Frank Langella are stand-outs, as is Eli Wallach. But the movie really belongs to Michael Douglas, who probably turns in (the ending notwithstanding) his best performance with this. Barring a complete slaughter by the critics, Wall Street 2 could be up for several acting nominations, maybe Best Pic, maybe Best Director.
So you might think, no way – it’s a sequel, etc. Yes, it’s a sequel, but it doesn’t just make an appearance in order to make more money for all involved, which is what it seems like sight unseen. It isn’t that. What it is more is Stone’s own political commentary, something we’ve been missing since he stopped making those kinds of movies. His is a powerful voice and one that doesn’t fuck around.
Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography is exceptional. Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff are the writers. Like many of Stone’s film, the visual style is all its own – sometimes maybe a tad over-the-top, but always driving the point of the film home: times may have changed but morality is still crystal clear. Every one of Gordon Gekko’s observations about the rich, corporate greed and the obvious way it’s done now hits the bulls-eye. It’s the right film at the right time and in many ways, it had to be Oliver Stone to do this because he’s one of the few with big enough balls.
Having said all of that, I agree with Jeff Wells about the one big flaw. I don’t agree with EW’s Owen Gleiberman, though, who says it doesn’t hold a candle to the original. I don’t think it’s meant to. That is its biggest strength. It is here for a specific reason to impart a specific and necessary message.¬†¬† The interesting thing is how these two films speak to their own decades. One is about winners who are really losers, and the other is about losers who are really winners.
I am not sure anyone else will see it this way, but for me, being over here in Europe and watching it against the backdrop of global cinema, it had an entirely different impact than it ordinarily would have. Here at Cannes, you talk about films in terms of their country – “The Chinese film,” the “Romanian film,” the “Korean film.” Well, Wall Street is the “American film.” Boy, is it ever.
Then again, maybe it’s really the “Oliver Stone film.” His voice has been sorely missed.