Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Taking a leaf from Alfred Hitchcock, director Oliver Stone directs and acts as an anonymous investor in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, a film aimed at explaining that reckless ambition and greed are alive and well, while victims are demoralized, impoverished, and even die. Economists differ on the specific causes of the crash of 2008/09, and various hypotheses are articulated or implied in “Wall Street II,” but Stone traces the madness to the macho culture by making Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas) as the principal antihero. When the film begins, Gekko is leaving federal prison after serving time from 1993-2001 for insider trading (as depicted in Stone’s 1987 film Wall Street). Nobody meets him, but the book that he has been writing at Sing Sing is ready for publication by 2008, followed by a lucrative speaking tour (which doubtless makes more money for him than the book), and he is back in business, though small time. Meanwhile, his daughter Winnie (played by Carey Mulligan) is romantically attached to Jake Moore (played by Shia LaBoeuf), an upcoming Wall Street employee of a company that goes bust in 2008 because Bretton James (played by Josh Brolin), a rival CEO, persuades the Federal Reserve not to rescue the company, whereupon the company president, Louis Zabel (played by Frank Langella), commits suicide. Moore seeks out Gekko, presumably to get his blessing to marry his daughter, but actually to serve as a mentor to replace Zabel. But James also seeks out Moore, hires him with the hidden agenda of doublecrossing him, and soon Moore is again on the lookout for funds to invest in an alternative energy project. Then Gekko provides a lollipop—a secret Swiss bank account—, and the plot moves to its inevitable noir conclusion with millionaire Stone, the son of a stockbroker, stopping far short of indicting capitalism itself. “Moral hazard” is defined at one point in the film as entrusting money to an untrustworthy person, but the most memorable line is Gekko’s characterization of the current generation as the “ninja generation” with “no income, no job, no assets.” MH

A mercury spill within the village of Choropampa during 2000 from a silver mine in the Andes is carried downslope to those living immediately below, producing blindness and other forms of sickness. In Altiplano the event is portrayed within a fictional Turubamba, Perú, where non-Spanish-speaking indigenous people center their lives around a Catholicism that puts much stress on the Virgin Mary. A clinic run by foreigners provides cataract operations, but none of the ophthalmologists is a general practitioner. When some die, they revolt against the only outsiders they know—the physicians, not the miners. One ophthalmologist is killed by the mob, whereupon the clinic closes, leaving the native people to cope with traditional if ineffective resources, and the mining continues operation as before. An independent film, the plot is never spelled out but unfolds so slowly without a narrator that filmviewers may be tempted to leave long before the end, as clueless as those depicted in the film. The physicians, who at one point blame themselves for not collecting data to present to authorities in order to stop the mining malpractice, evidently did not attend a class in social health at medical school, for they should have immediately petitioned for a clean up of the contamination by bringing the health crisis to the attention of the mining company (an employee of which attests that he never heard of Turubamba), Human Rights Watch, the Red Cross, the World Health Organization, or some other organization. Directors Peter Brosens and Jessica Hope Woodworth clearly miss an opportunity in their story and screenplay to effect filmviewer empowerment; they instead focus on anthropological aspects. Thereby, they are complicit in promoting a feeling of helplessness, demonstrating the veracity of what Edmund Burke predicted would happen whenever “good men do nothing.” MH