The wonder of opulence, the sadness of greed. – The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

The Great Gatsby – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

The Great Gatsby (2013)

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Writers: Baz Luhrmann (screenplay) and Craig Pearce (screenplay), F. Scott Fitzgerald (based of the novel by)
Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Isla Fisher, and Jason Clarke.

Who is Gatsby? The question that haunts and taunts throughout the novel and throughout Luhrmann’s film. Firstly, I have to admit that I love Fitzgerald’s writing but hate the story of Gatsby. It took me a long time to pick it back up after reading the first chapter and I struggled to get through it because I despised the characters, even Nick Carraway. Their selfishness, opulence, disregard for life and love, and use and abuse of the people around them made me sick. But that is what Fitzgerald intended to some degree. He slowly reveals our darkest secrets and shows us our reflection in each of the characters features and flaws. I was anxious going into the film. With Baz Luhrmann’s reputation for over the top theatrics and in your face metaphors it was hard not to be really, especially after watching the trailer for the film. And yet, from the moment the lights dimmed in the cinema and that title sequence began I knew it would all be okay.

The Great Gatsby is a film that transports you back to the mid-20s whilst keeping your feet firmly planted in 2013. The atmosphere, the light, the music, the sounds, everything screams at you with a haunting whisper of our reality. Gatsby (DiCaprio) is the ever hopeful and Carraway (Maguire) is the witness to the demise of hope and innocence. DiCaprio is brilliant. He shines so brightly and broods so grotesquely that there is rarely a moment that you can not believe that he is Gatsby. He is the lost soul who is trying to grasp something he never had a chance of possessing. Carey Mulligan is teamed with DiCaprio like the second side of his coin as the foolish Daisy Buchanan. Her flittering eyes, constantly on the verge of tears, and vacant looks convey the truth of Daisy.

But the man who really steals the film is Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan, Daisy’s racist, bigoted, cheating husband. The slow brewing act of Tom is built throughout the film until the moment he takes Gatsby down in a small room of a hotel in New York. Edgerton’s performance is stunning. You are both repulsed by and drawn towards him like Daisy. You want to hate him but you know that in some small way that he is right about Gatsby, and you can’t fault him for that. Everything else, sure, he is a douchebag 100%, but he is right about Gatsby, and Joel Edgerton plays the balance remarkably.

The trailer to this film shows the opulence, the extravaganza, the pomp and ceremony of Gatsby, but what it fails to show is the great moments in between which make this film fantastic. It is the moments of slowness, the moments of Carraway’s reflections, the glimpses of Gatsby’s past, the brokenness of life in the world, and the calm before the storm that make this film great. Baz Luhrmann has managed to give life to Gatsby and Carraway’s friendship and to provide a film that shows both the wonder of opulence and the sadness of greed.

4/5

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Why the director makes all the difference – Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty - Official Poster - from IMDB.com

Zero Dark Thirty – Official Poster – from IMDB.com

Zero Dark Thirty (2013)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow
Writer: Mark Boal
Stars: Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt

It took over ten years for Osama Bin Laden to be found, captured, and killed. Zero Dark Thirty is a film about how long the journey to finding him was, and how the things the military did to get him were “necessary”.

Some may say that this film is pro-torture and anti-Islam and in some ways it is but it is so much more than a propaganda film. Kathryn Bigelow has a flare for creating intensely gripping and realistic films and Zero Dark Thirty is one of her best. The intensity of this film doesn’t come from the subject matter, although it is a gripping story. It comes from the way Bigelow has directed the film. It is the moments of stillness that make this film so fantastic. You view the characters from the outside, disconnected and watchful but when it comes to the highly intense scenes you are thrown into the action with deliberate closeness. It creates for an interesting experience as a viewer as you feel both disconnected and deeply involved at the same time. It is a fascinating and wonderful sensation as a viewer.

The other point of greatness in this film is Jessica Chastain’s performance. It is perfect. Chastain portrays a real woman. It isn’t a feminine or masculine spy type but a perfect balance of intelligence and humanity. It is a mellow and grounded performance that reveals so much about the reality of the resilience of intelligence workers in war. The harshness of their work and the reality of war is portrayed so realistically through this film that it gives this story a believability unlike other war films that have come before it.

This film is a narrative of how the world leader of terrorism was killed and how a woman’s determination to find him was so strong that she devoted her life and career to the cause. It tells the tale of how loss and moral ambiguity can cloud a person’s judgment and about how having a single focus and single mission in life can leave you with a sense of empty relief when it is all said and done.

4/5