Wall Street is the modern version of the competitions between Greece and Rome.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

            With astonishing timing, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps has arrived on wings of slime. Director Oliver Stone has unfurled his second movie about the money traders at the very moment they have undivided global attention. In a world awash in acronyms that long ago surpassed the understanding of ordinary investors, the players of Wall Street tend their own bottom line - some playing within the rules, others indulging in outright thievery and manipulation. This is a game played by men who see life and business in terms of metaphors. Wall Street is the modern version of the competitions of Greece and Rome, and Oliver Stone loves this playing field.
            Gordon Gekko, predator extraordinaire, is back. With instincts sharpened, not rusted, by eight years in jail, he returns to Wall Street ready to soak up the tips and insider information that will inform his decisions. In a lecture to a room full of aspirants, he warns that greed is "a systemic, global, malignant disease" that is endemic to bankers, traders, and investors alike. Michael Douglas inhabits Gekko's oily skin so thoroughly that it's hard to think of him as anyone else, on screen or off.
            In a move designed to let us know that there can be another side to all the duplicity, Stone dwells on Winnie, Gekko's daughter (Carey Mulligan), a young idealist who is disgusted by everything her father has done. She lives, on again, off again, with Jake (Shia LaBeouf), a trader with a conveniently idealistic bent toward financing green projects. Will Jake fall to the ethic of his new boss Bretton James (Josh Brolin) or to the values of his mentor Louis Zabel, the elder statesman/founder of his firm? Frank Langella is memorable as the beaten man who tries to hold back the tide, but can't.
            Oliver Stone and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto capture beautifully the atmosphere of three areas of the culture of Manhattan that help its machinery run: the elaborate, blinking tapestry of the island surrounded on all sides by wondrous river traffic; the rows of trading room computers manned by the aspiring young on cell phones ringing with rumor; and powerful men in black climbing the grand stone steps to a benefit dinner at the Met, each with an ornamental woman on his arm. The Met has never looked more beautiful.
            On the downside, clichés (the motorcycle race) in an otherwise smart script are jarring. Shia LaBeouf, while likable, hasn't quite the presence to hold his own in this company (except in some razzle dazzle dealing with the Chinese) while Carey Mulligan can hold her own anywhere. Look for a fine cameo by Susan Sarandon as Jake's insatiable mother. Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs are thinly disguised villains.
            "It's not about power; it's the game," says Gekko. But within that game it's all about speed - of communication, of ascension, of the accumulation of power. All this action plus a very hot topic equals one colorful, king-size entertainment.


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