Monday, 1 November 2010

Wall Street

Lowdown: A personal story of moral decay caused as the result of extreme capitalism.
Upon the release of its sequel, Money Never Sleeps, Channel 10 graced us by airing the original 1987 piece by Oliver Stone. Surprisingly for a film with such reputation as Wall Street I never sat through its entirety. Watching a film in bits over a lengthy period of time is never a recipe for cinematic fulfillment, so this Friday night we sat down to rectify the situation.
The story, in case you’re not familiar with it, has us following an aspiring Charlie Sheen. The son of an airline mechanic and union member (real life father Martin Sheen), our Charlie works as an investment manager and spends his day cold calling potential customers for their business out of his nightmare of an office where he is surrounded by people like him, some young, some old, and some crash landing. He is looking at the stars, though, and his favorite supernova is Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), a cutthroat investor that ploughs through people and businesses like a bulldozer powered by pure greed. With his father's airline on the line, soon enough our young apprentice needs to make the personal call between humanism/consciousness and making money/getting the girls/having the supposedly good life; Gekko’s extreme capitalism cannot tolerate a compromises there.
While the plot may sound simple, the devil is in the style. And the style is unmistakably Oliver Stone's, even if in many respects it is outdated by too eighties music and computer monitors smaller and less flashy than the one on my hand watch. You get the fast pacing and fast editing, especially with characters talking the Wall Street talk at such pace and with such vigour that you can only hope to get the gist of things by the general atmosphere. The combination of this very confronting as well as polarizing presentation is what gave Wall Street its classic reputation, coupled with Douglas’ by now legendary performance.
Best scene: Obviously, the classic scene in which Gekko boasts the power of greed before a meeting of shareholders is the film’s most memorable one. I found it interesting because Gekko invokes arguments from evolution to justify his greed, namely survival of the fittest. The likes of Hitler and other advocates of eugenics have done it before him, neglecting to notice that human civilization’s biggest achievement has been countering the normal order of nature in order to prevent the rule of the fittest. None of us wants to live like an animal, not even the richest; it’s time our society got bold enough to acknowledge that and behave accordingly, embracing humanism instead of capitalism.
Overall: It may be old by I like it; there certainly is a lot to learn from Wall Street still (read: GFC). 3.5 out of 5 stars. Sadly, while speculative jobs will probably never appeal to me, it does not seem like Wall Street’s lessons are getting to the minds of those that count.

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