For someone who has been in the film industry for over 50 years, Martin Scorsese shows no sign of slowing down or losing his touch, always managing to reinvent his directing style and experiment from time to time. Though he is most well-known for his gangster flicks such as Mean Streets, Goodfellas and recently The Irishman, he occasionally sneaks in something completely different that keeps us on our toes. Whether it’s an attempt at a musical with New York, New York or trying his hand at a children’s film with Hugo, there is no denying that Scorsese is willing to mix things up and do something new rather than sticking to what he knows best.
However, in 2013 he managed to somehow outdo himself by giving us a movie no one knew they needed. A 3-hour, adrenaline-filled black comedy about a guy who scammed his way to millions of dollars, all while submerging himself into a lifestyle that had more sex, drugs and debauchery than one person can realistically handle. I am, of course, talking about The Wolf of Wall Street.
The film follows the escapades of Jordan Belfort, who, along with his employees at Stratton Oakmont, swindled many people out of millions as well as how it all eventually came crashing down on top of him. From his somewhat humble beginnings as an amateur stockbroker to evading the FBI at every possible turn, The Wolf of Street packs a lot into its rather daunting runtime but somehow never makes it feel like a drag.
Where to start with this film?
Well, the first thing that must be mentioned is the pacing and the sheer energy that Scorsese squeezes out of every scene. For a 3-hour length, the runtime flies by, feeling like it’s an hour shorter than it is by the end. This is down to a variety of elements coherently working hand in hand, the most crucial being Scorsese’s brilliant direction and Thelma Schoonmaker’s airtight editing. The film is fast-paced, that’s for sure, but it never feels tiring. It is just the right speed to be able to follow every detail whilst also soaking up the pure insanity of the events that unfold. All whilst Scorsese works his magic behind the camera, using every trick in the book to make this film as unashamedly entertaining as it can possibly be.
The cast are also another key factor to this film’s success. Everyone is bringing their a-game here, but the standouts are, without a doubt, Leonardo DiCaprio, Margot Robbie and Jonah Hill. Robbie, in her star-turning performance, makes her voice heard among all these A-listers. She is everything her character needs to be and then some, delivering a lot of raw, unfiltered emotion during her most confrontational scenes with Leo.
Speaking of which, DiCaprio has never been better. He puts everything into this role, being the right amount of cocky and smug that occasionally can appear more charming than obnoxious. He even manages to sprinkle in small amounts of idiocy into his performance to make the comedic moments really pop. If that wasn’t enough, Dicaprio’s chemistry with Hill elevates, what was already, a funny script to new heights as they bounce off each other perfectly. The best and most iconic example being the scene in which they both overdose on out-of-date Quaaludes and are ultimately reduced to drooling messes on the floor.
The Wolf of Wall Street, as you can probably expect, doesn’t hold back on its content either. It throws so much sex and drug fuelled depravity at you that it’ll have you second guessing how much of it actually happened. A couple of things here and there are exaggerated, but due to the reality of the situation being as insane as it was, it can be hard deciphering what is fact and what is false. The Wolf of Wall Street was even awarded a Guinness World Record for the most instances of swearing in a single film, if that doesn’t tell you how committed this film is then I don’t know what will.
Even 10 years later, its themes of excess can be felt dripping from every frame, whether it’s the graphic content that lines each scene or the dense runtime. Scorsese tries his best to immerse you in this lavish and shameless true story by essentially forcing you to look at it.
The film manages to encapsulate the hectic, non-stop lifestyle of Jordan Belfort through its frenetic pace that never lets up for the entirety of its 3-hours. Couple that with the excellent cast, a truly hilarious script and a director pulling out all the stops to make this an unadulterated blast of pure entertainment and you have yourself a masterpiece that will, most certainly, continue to be talked about and praised for years to come.