Review: The Great Gatsby

‘Can’t repeat the past?’ Gatsby cries incredulously. ‘Why, of course you can!’ Quite fitting, then, that Romeo + Juliet director Baz Luhrmann should get the green light to reprise this literary adaptation of one of the Great American novels.

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Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel of the same name, The Great Gatsby follows Nick Carraway (Maguire) a bond salesman who, in his ‘younger and more vulnerable years’ encounters the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio). A Trimalchio of the Roaring Twenties, very little is known about Gatsby, except his flair for throwing outrageous parties for a New York infatuated with conspicuous consumption.

More of a metaphor than a man, Gatsby’s American dream is reuniting with his lost love Daisy Buchanan (Mulligan), and Leonardo’s performance is exquisite, revealing all his quixotic passions and frailties with extraordinary tenderness. This is an entirely different Gatsby to Robert Redford in the 1974 film, but a truly great Gatsby nevertheless.

Credit where credit is due, Tobey Maguire embodies the modest narrator perfectly, rarely overplaying his role as Nick. A wallflower of sorts, he delivers Fitzgerald’s gorgeous prose so gently, you can’t help but hope for an unabridged audiobook. Stephen Fry, eat your heart out.

This is quintessential Baz Luhrmann; totally theatrical and often cartoonish, a circus of extravagance. But like the inhabitants of Long Island, however, these aesthetic beauties are meretricious. That is to say, wholly superficial. Just as Gatsby creates these glamorous parties as a self-constructed illusion, some may argue Luhrmann similarly constructs this dazzling dreamscape to masquerade the omnipresent sense of apathy. And rightly so. Quite frankly, it’s just difficult to care about the careless.

With an intriguing soundtrack to say the least, Gatsby features an amalgamation of artists ranging from Emeli Sandé to Jay-Z. Certain tracks like Jack White’s cover of ‘Love Is Blindness’ feel needlessly implemented for the sake of a montage, while others, such as Lana Del Rey’s stunning ‘Young and Beautiful,’ echo hauntingly throughout the film. An achingly beautiful piece worthy of the Jazz Age.

The literary pedantic who regard the novel as sacrosanct will inevitably be left exasperated with the new framing device and numerous narrative reinventions. Not to mention the proverbial clown car of miscast supporting characters (here’s looking at you, Isla Fisher) and a rather uninspired portrayal of Daisy by the otherwise brilliant Carey Mulligan. Fundamentally, if you hold as much hope in your heart as Gatsby, you’re bound to be disappointed. It’s good, but it’s not great.

Under the unblinking eyes of those unfamiliar with the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald, however, this is a vibrant spectacle, and a timeless story of hope, perhaps best described as an unintelligent work of art, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

7/10

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Review: Iron Man 3

From the electric exposition sounding Eiffel 65’s ‘Blue (Da Ba Dee)’, it is clear that Iron Man 3 is a daring, unrestrained threequel by director Shane Black. But he who dares, wins, and this is a cinematic victory of epic proportions – the ultimate action blockbuster.

Iron Man 3

Only a man who has climbed out of his own personal hell could embody a character with such believability, and Robert Downey Jr. has grappled with as many demons as his comic-book counterpart. Continuing from the climatic New York battle in the superpowered tour de force that was Avengers Assemble, Tony Stark is suffering from acute anxiety attacks, and is quite noticeably shaken to his electromagnetic core.

Having embarked upon a relationship with his assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Stark’s heart hasn’t seen such vulnerability since when he was taken captive in Jon Favreau’s first chapter. “Things are different now,” Stark reveals, “I have to protect the one thing that I can’t live without. That’s you.”

In Avengers Assemble, Captain America posed the question: “Big man in a suit of armour. Take that off, what are you?”Iron Man 3 examines this question to a forensic degree; what’s inside the man inside the suit? These interesting narrative vicissitudes allow a Stark-centric plot which brings the Iron Man back down to Earth, demonstrating that Tony is a genuine, bona fide hero – suit or no suit.

One of the most engaging, charismatic actors to have graced the silver screen, Downey Jr. is again worth the admission price alone. As expected, there is the plethora of witty asides welded with the usual tongue-in-cheek one-liners throughout, but you can just sense that this hero is every bit as broken as his new suit. However, Stark exposed is utterly captivating, as the layers of arrogance and self-worth are stripped away. You can’t help but feel reminiscent of the Dark Knight trilogy in terms of baring a character so naked, so raw. ‘And why do we fall, Bruce?’

Villains have always been the chink in the armour of this superhero saga, but rest assured, the Mandarin is finally the antagonist this series deserves – a machiavellian genius who, in a literal blaze of fury, is one to finally test Stark’s metal. Guy Pearce is sublime as Aldrich Killian, but it’s the scene stealing Ben Kingsley who is, in more than one way, a total revelation.

Don Cheadle’s Rhodey deservedly gets his fair share of screen time also, as the Iron Patriot. The Roger Murtaugh to Stark’s Riggs, the pair bounce off each other with such zeal, they can’t help but evoke Shane Black’s original buddy cop movie Lethal Weapon.

The film is forged with blistering set pieces and innovative fight sequences, utilising the suit in a variety of ways with such vision and imagination. Fittingly, the film reaches its most dizzying heights during a scene involving passengers hurtling from a plane at breakneck speeds as Stark is left in a race against time to save the day. Absolutely gripping stuff, this is an adrenaline-fuelled thrill-ride. A must see in 3D.

A new contender for your favourite Christmas action flick, wrestling with such festive giants as Die Hard, this is every bit as entertaining as Avengers Assemble. As with any Marvel film, it’s definitely worth sticking around for a brief post-credit scene. One which entirely modifies the context of the film; a move worthy of Stark’s intellect. Genius, perhaps. But note: Tony Stark will return. Downey may not. If for the last time, sit back, and enjoy.

9/10