Oliver Stone’s reputation as a wide-eyed provocateur of the left is mostly founded around one movie, the unfortunate JFK, and those who only see him through the prism of that one movie might expect Wall Street to be nothing less than a lacerating indictment of the entire capitalist system. The director’s target is more specific than that, however. His father was a stockbroker, so Stone isn’t about to trash the entire profession, but he does take aim at some of the more egregious excesses of the mid-eighties.
Keep in mind that this was before day trading and the days of CNBC and cable news channels with a full time stock ticker running across the bottom of the screen, so elements that seem familiar to us in 2007 were actually somewhat revelatory in 1987. Thus, Stone’s insider’s look at the world of corporate raiders and leveraged buyouts was pretty eye-opening at the time.
Okay, admit it. When you heard that Oliver Stone was going to make a movie about the events of September 11, 2001, a lot of you rolled your eyes and thought, “Oh, my God, what’s he going to do now?” Was he going to have Richard Nixon rising from the grave to plant explosives in the twin towers? How were the Grassy Knoll gunmen who killed John Kennedy involved? And how did it all tie back to the Vietnam War?
Oliver Stone’s Platoon remains the pinnacle of his directorial career and with good reason. Presenting the grunt’s eye view of the Vietnam War, this is definitely a movie that could only have been made by someone who had been there. Even if you disagree with Stone’s politics and find fault with his later work, it’s hard to dispute the sincerity and brutal honesty he brings to this film.
Oliver Stone‘s JFK is a movie as admirable in its technique as it is troubling in its agenda. Much like Birth of a Nation sought to rewrite the early history of the original Ku Klux Klan, JFK represents a concerted effort on Stone’s part to insert certifiable falsehoods into the historical record of the Kennedy assassination. He gets two basic facts correct. John F. Kennedy was indeed assassinated on November 22, 1963 and New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison did actually prosecute businessman Clay Shaw for his role in an alleged conspiracy. After that, the facts and Mr. Stone have a strained relationship at best. I sincerely hope that this movie will be as routinely dismissed by future generations as Birth of a Nation is today.