So much is right about this film, and yet the contrived ending where the main characters just happen to be at the right place, at the right time, leaves you feeling cheated.
Oliver Stone had a really tight little screenplay going until the last 15 or 20 minutes where the theme seems to switch from Wall Street and all the arrogance and greed, to the betrayal and supposed redemption of Gordon Gekko.
The camera work throughout is excellent, and you really get the feeling of power during all the boardroom scenes. Also, the ending collage that plays during the final credits is a work of art in itself. The acting for the most part is top shelf, especially from Josh Brolin as the main bad guy, and Shia LeBeouf, who surprised me in the main role. Of course Michael Douglas is Da Man as Gekko, delivering his lines with such smoothness, yet hinting at something deeper behind the lines. In an almost cameo, there is a wonderfully done bit by Susan Surandon as LeBeouf's mom.
Carey Mulligan, as the female lead has the thankless task of being the whining, not very interesting daughter of Gekko, who utters some very unfortunate lines, especially when assessing blame for her brother's drug addiction and eventual death.
I loved the first half of this film, as the collapse of one of the investment firm totally mirrored the whole Lehman Bros. mess... it was like watching that part of Too Big To Fail all over again, only this time the guy playing the head of, ahem, Lehman Bros. comes off much more sympathetic instead of the totally arrogant prick he was portrayed as in TBTF. There is a nice feel to the film and perhaps it is Stone's message, that everything is for sale, and that the art of the deal is more important than the deal itself. I forget who says it, but to paraphrase, it ain't about the money, it's about the juice that the deal makes you feel.
In conclusion, the film, coming before TBTF, is a nice expose into what went down in 2008, and could have been a classic like All The President's Men a generation before, but the misstep of those last scenes seemed to come from a different film entirely, as if the studio execs forced Stone to write in a happy ending. In fact the entire relationship between Mulligan and not only her father, but LeBeouf as well, seemed just a bit too pat, allowing Stone to get on his soapbox about the effects of unbridled greed. Frankly, the story would have been better served without the interplay of those relationships.