Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Image is property of Fox Searchlight and Film4

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Film Review

Cast: Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage

Director: Martin McDonagh

Synopsis: After a young woman’s murder goes unsolved, her mother rents out the use of three billboards just outside her town to try and force the authorities into action…

Review: As human beings, it would certainly be fair to say that we can be at our lowest ebbs whenever someone we love has passed away. Whether it be from natural causes, or if they’re cruelly and sometimes callously taken away from us. But what could anyone do in the case of the latter? Well there’s not a lot you could do except hope that killer was caught and swiftly faces justice for their actions. However, what if that doesn’t come to pass?  Do you have any other options?

Yes is the answer for one bereaved mother, as she chooses to take matters into her own hands. After her daughter Angela was brutally raped and murdered seven months prior, Mildred Hayes makes use of three large billboards just outside of her town, with  messages that are directed at the police whose investigation hasn’t yielded any clues. Though by doing this, it causes a stir among the population of the town (and not in a good way) that creates some problems on top of the problems that Mildred is already having in her life.

You would think that such a bleak scenario does not allow for comedy, but that’s exactly what writer/director Martin McDonagh provides. His superb screenplay manages fuses both the comedy and the tragedy of this family drama so effortlessly that one never negates the other. One scene can shift from a wonderfully humorous moment to a gut-wrenchingly sad moment in an instant. Furthermore, in a country that is facing some deeply testing times, the screenplay also goes beyond the personal grief of one family and examines some important issues facing American society today. It’s extremely powerful and hard-hitting.

Being the centrepiece of this story Mildred Hayes is a character who it is clear has had a lot of shit going on in her life besides the tragic fate that befell her daughter. Even though she isn’t exactly going things in the most acceptable or indeed correct manner, you understand her rage that she has for certain people and as such you do sympathise with her. Frances McDormand gives a terrific performance that has already won her a Golden Globe, with more nominations and potentially awards to follow, all of which would be well deserved. Equally terrific are Police Chief Willoughby (Harrelson) who’s encountering his own difficult personal problems and a bigoted policeman (Rockwell) who is absolutely not a friendly chap whatsoever. Yet there is a hint of a man who is a little bit vulnerable, though the same could be said for perhaps almost everyone in the town, with these events having clearly taken their toll on the town as a whole.

With each of the story-lines that these characters have and the ensuing journey that these three in particular go on makes for some hilarious, and in some cases, harrowing viewing. Yet  it handles its subject matter in such a delicate manner that the comedy and the tragedy do not cancel each other out. With McDonagh’s razor sharp screenplay and direction, combined with the electric performances from the ensemble cast ensures that the film is extremely thought-provoking. It packs so much more emotional weight that ensures it will leave a lasting impression, on both the viewer and indeed on this current awards season race.

 Funny, shocking and depressing, sometimes all in the same scene, but McDonagh’s razor sharp screenplay ensures it is all meshed together supremely well. This is bold, but quite brilliant film-making in equal measure.

 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

wolf of wall street
Image is property of Red Granite Pictures, Appian Way Productions, Sikelia Productions, Emjag Productions, Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures

The Wolf of Wall Street – Film Review

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Matthew McConaughey, Jon Favreau, Joanna Lumley

Director: Martin Scorsese

Synopsis: Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort who starts work as a trainee stockbroker before going at it alone by starting his own stockbroker company. He soon acquires a vast fortune through various methods and it is not long before the authorities are on his trail

Review: What do you get if you cross one of the best directors of the current generation, with one of the finest actors working today? Simple really, you get this hilariously entertaining, enthralling account of the life of Jordan Belfort. A life that involved involving stockbroking, money laundering, debauchery and raucous behaviour throughout its three hour running time. Scorsese, in one of his funniest films to date, brings the story of Jordan Belfort to life in an uproarious way that will have you entertained from start to finish.

The story of Belfort is a man who begins his profession as a stockbroker, and through a series of twists and turns eventually sets up his own company that continues to grow and grow making millions upon millions of dollars. Money, money, money, is always at the forefront of his thoughts. However not all of this money has been acquired by legal means. The excitement grows as the FBI are soon on the hunt for Belfort to question. Through this three hour tale, Scorsese gives us a little insight into what the life of someone who works on Wall Street may entail.

Belfort is wonderfully portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio. He has several monolgues in the film where it almost feels like he’s talking to you as the viewer and he’s taking you along for the ride. Furthermore whenever he has a microphone in his hand, you pay close attention to what he’s saying. There are (hopefully) no aspirations among audience members to follow DiCaprio down the path he’s taken, but you watch with excitement as his journey unfolds. The ambition that comes from this character ensures the audience are on board with his endeavours.

Another strong performance in the film comes from Jonah Hill in probably his best film role to date. His work in Moneyball earned him his first Oscar nomination, and this performance here earns him another nomination.His character adds  another level to the hilarity that is has already been put on screen. He has some golden moments in this film, one scene in particular with him and DiCaprio that should have you in hysterics. From scene one to the final end scene, this film is packed to the brim with hilarious moments.

Plenty of these scenes are filled with hard drug use and outrageous behaviour that may be too much for some but these scenes while they may be crude in nature, are brilliantly shot and wonderfully acted by everyone involved, including a great cameo appearance from Matthew McConaughey. Margot Robbie also gives a great performance as Belfort’s poor wife Naomi. As the film goes on, she has to put up with her husband’s decadent lifestyle and gets increasingly frustrated by him.

Despite the crude behaviour that is packed throughout this film’s run time, it does not condone the shocking behaviour that is seen. There are consequences for this sort of behaviour and the film really hammers that point home. It’s three hour run time is maybe a bit too long but overall with first class performances from DiCaprio and Hill, combined hilarity throughout, The Wolf of Wall Street  was one raucous and side-splitting piece of story telling that definitely adds itself neatly to the collection of the wonderful filmography of Martin Scorsese.

A solid performance by DiCaprio, with a tremendous supporting turn from both Hill and Robbie, with masterful direction as usual from Scorsese.

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