Leonardo di Caprio takes centre stage as Jordan Belmont, one of the most loathsome people you could ever meet.
Forget the debate about whether the film neglects its responsibility to the victims of Belmont’s business practices – this film isn’t about that, and so it doesn’t even come into question.
This is a character study of excess, greed and hedonism, with di Caprio dialling it all the way up to eleven, spitting out bits of scenery as he goes.
At one point, di Caprio’s character, explaining his staff motivation tactics, yells something along the lines of “They have to want to live like I do” – and herein lies the major problem. I don’t want to live like he does. OK, the house, the yacht, the limousine – the ‘things’ – would be fun, but the lifestyle he chooses to accompany all of that is just not appealing.
Belmont has no redeeming features – if you could like him even a little bit it would make this film so much better. And actually, I was prepared to go with him until the point where he directly addresses the audience and dismisses our intelligence with “you wouldn’t understand”. At that point I lost any interest in him.
However, Matthew McConnaughey wins again – all plot exposition should be done like this. After three hours of Leo, it’s McConnaughey’s short appearance that is the lasting memory.
Cards on the table – this is not an easy film to watch. And I’m glad, too, because nothing about this man’s experience should be easy to watch.
To the people who complain about there being so much violence in the film – IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED. SLAVERY ACTUALLY HAPPENED. THIS IS NOT INVENTED IN ORDER TO WIN AN OSCAR. THIS IS PART OF HISTORY AND SHOULD NEVER BE FORGOTTEN.
Rant over, I will continue.
Director Steve McQueen has taken this difficult story and made it work on-screen. The beauty of the photography contrasts with the ugliness of the behaviour, and we are compelled to watch brutal scenes because they matter.
The performances are excellent. To mention just two: Michael Fassbender is a monster, driven by inner demons he cannot allow himself to face – which are in no way allowed to serve as an excuse for what he does. And Chiwetel Ejiofor is haunting. He is in just about every shot, and manages to convey that which he cannot speak by a furrow of his brow or a fleeting expression of bewilderment.
After two hours of calmly observing and taking in all the horrors offered up, it was the last scene which reduced me to tears with its unbelievable humanity.
This is, I think, the first time where I have felt that I have not really been able to explain how I feel about a film. It is complex, difficult, brutal and beautiful. It deserves all of the plaudits and none of the reservations.
It should be seen by everyone, no excuses.
American Hairstyle, more like.
Which actually tells you what you need to know from me – the extravagance of the various coiffure arrangements had me entranced to the point where I wasn’t fully engaging with the film. The obsession with hair, nails, gold chains and revealing cleavage was reminiscent of a fancy dress party rather than authentic mood-setting.
I mean, there is a decent-enough heist story in there, I enjoyed Jeremy Renner and Jennifer Lawrence’s performances (even though she is really too young for the role) and there’s a great soundtrack.
It’s just that I don’t understand why it’s being talked about so much for awards. But then, I felt the same about Silver Linings Playbook last year, so what do I know?
Beautiful Mads Mikkelsen – astride a horse and speaking French for added enjoyment – sets out to right a wrong done unto him.
Loosely based on a novella by Heinrich Von Kleist, the themes of vengeance and God’s justice for the righteous were lost for me among a lot of trekking around on horses and some confusing geography. A bit like Robin Hood meets Valhalla Rising. I was never exactly sure where we were supposed to be or why, and for Kleist, the landscape is part of the story so I felt I should have been more ‘there’. Also a bit confused as to why everyone could understand Sergi Lopez when he turned up in the forest speaking Catalan, and why there were a couple of lines spoken in German at a particular point.
Good job the beautiful Mads was there to keep the eye entertained.