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Wall Street

USA 2010
Directed by
Oliver Stone
127 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3 stars

Wall Street - Money Never Sleeps

Synopsis: In 2001 Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) is released from jail after doing time for insider trading. Cut to 2008 and young Wall Street trader, Jake Moore (Shia le Beouf) is making millions at investment bank Keller Zabel, headed by his mentor, Lou (Frank Langella). Jake’s girlfriend is Winnie Gekko (Carey Mulligan), a soft and idealistic environmental activist who is estranged from her father. When the financial crisis strikes, Keller Zabel takes a hit and is bailed out for a song by the rapacious Bretton James (Josh Brolin), head of a rival bank. With his livelihood at risk, some scores to settle, and his desire to reconcile Winnie with Gordon, Jake teams up with Gekko. The various agendas all parties have will only lead to crises of a more personal nature.

Would I have enjoyed this film before I became old enough to be forced to learn about financial matters? If I knew nothing at all of the stock market and the GFC would I follow this plot? Well, who knows, but I remember enjoying Wall Street back in 1987 when I was an econo-klutz, and I found myself really enjoying this one even more..

First, we have a top drawer director in Stone who brings a sense of heightened tension to the crazy world of stockbroking that he depicts so visually eloquently. Then we have a smart plot that is peppered with fabulous quotable dialogue. When Gekko addresses a seminar he calls the youngsters the NINJA generation – No income, no jobs, no assets. Parents, he says “are the bones on which children sharpen their teeth” and he defines a moral hazard as “when someone takes your money and is not responsible for it”.

Stone gives the film a great visual appeal. Of course, Manhattan is a stunning settting and it looks magnificent in the camera angles of towering skyscrapers with trading numbers superimposed across them while the lunacy of the trading floor is captured with dynamic energy. Stone is also fond of a metaphor or two with several shots of children playing with soap bubbles – (bubbles – financial crashes – get it?).

The actors are the next big plus. This film sports a great cast: Douglas does his best work as Gekko, a man we want to despise but who manages to nevertheless elicit our erstwhile sympathy. La Beouf shows he really can act (he needs to get into more quality films). Mulligan is a sweet, almost innocent presence and counter to all the financial double-dealing, whilst Brolin shines as the slimy banker who is representative of the many sharks in today’s troubled financial waters. Even every small role (Frank Langella as Lou, Susan Sarandon as Jake’s mum and Eli Wallach as an old-school banker) is carefully written and finely acted.

Wall Street - Money Never Sleeps is like a crash course in what went wrong with the world in 2008, and Gekko’s famous mantra “Greed is good” is front and centre as the cause. The film really makes the whole debacle comprehensible, even for non-finance boffins, but scares the pants off us with the unsettling realisation that where there are humans, there will always be greed. Stone settles for a bit of formula at the end, but all in all I loved the ride (and listen out for some pretty good songs on the soundtrack too!).




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