gangs of new york

This is the second week in a row that I am slow on the uptake. Last week's review of Willard came a few weeks after I saw the film. This week's film, "Gangs of New York" came out months ago, but I just got around to seeing it this week. I had been trying to get someone, anyone, to see this film with me, but all of my friends bailed out on me. Most cited the length of the movie, which in my movie snobbery leads me to believe that they don't truly like movies.
"Gangs of New York" is set in the mid-1800's during the American Civil War. Boatloads of immigrants are arriving at the shores of New York City every day and tensions are rising as the "Native Americans" (the Anglo-Saxons who were born in the US) feel put-upon by the the mass of Irish immigrants. A war between the two factions brews and culminates in a brutal battle leaving many dead, including the leader of the Irish "army". The primary story of the film follows the son of that leader and his effort to avenge his father's death.
At 166 minutes this is a long movie, no doubt, but I feel it is the right length for this story. I never felt like the movie was dragging, and thanks to the wonderful performances by Daniel Day-Lewis and Leonardo DiCaprio, the opposite was relaly true. I have trouble expressing in words how fantastic Day-Lewis was; I know he gets lots of praise these days, but he is truly one of the finest actors alive. DiCaprio surprised me, this role was the first time I really caught a glimpse of the fine acting people seem to believe he is capable of. Cameron Diaz was her usual crappy self, however. Hopefully some day someone will notify her that you can only pull the "always the same character" thing off if you are an interesting person (and it rarely works in a period piece). Henry Thomas was reasonable as DiCaprio's friend, but about halfway into the film I realized who he was (Elliot from E.T.) and couldn't really take him seriously afterwards. And is anyone else getting sick of seeing John C. Reilly in every goddamned movie?
"Gangs of New York" is a beautiful film visually, featuring some of the best use of framing and color I have seen to date. The wardrobe and sets were fantastic as well, doing a great job of transforming a soundstage in Rome into the Manhattan of the mid-1800s. Besides my minor gripes about Scorsese's choice of a few actors, I really think this is a near-flawless film. I highly recommend seeing it if you haven't (and don't be like me; see it alone if you have to).