The Big Short Review
One man predicted what everyone thought was impossible
The Big Short depicts the lead up to and eventual financial crash of 2008, the men that sought to profit from it and the corruption that was unearthed along the way.It’s easy to see why The Big Short has been compared to other financial catastrophe films such as The Wolf of Wall Street - they both focus on the money hungry bankers and investors of Wall Street- however, The Big Short isn’t as glamorous or nearly as overtly humorous as some of the other depictions. Instead it focuses on how one man predicted the housing bubble collapse years before it happened, and the string of other bankers and investors who followed in his path to hopefully secure huge profits, unwittingly at the expense of millions of ordinary people in the US alone.Director Adam McKay guides his audience through the complexities of the financial world by breaking the fourth wall and is aided by Ryan Gosling’s character, Jared Vennett, who not only plays a full-of-himself banker but also doubles as the film's narrator. As if that wasn’t enough, McKay frequently halts the narrative to help explain the huge amount of financial jargon being thrown across the table by inserting celebrities, such as Selena Gomez, chef Anthony Bourdain and Margot Robbie (of Wolf of Wall Street fame) to decipher the complicated terms so that you or I can understand what the hell is going on.
Once you mix in the numerous montages of everyday pop culture used to emphasise the plot progression, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were actually attending some bizarre pyramid scheme presentation on how to earn millions. Having said that, it all actually works quite well to break up what could potentially have ended up a massive snooze fest with the audience left questioning what they’d just seen. The Big Short is based on the book by Michael Lewis titled The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine and was adapted for the screen by Charles Randolph (The Life of David Gale) and McKay.
With comedy hits such as Anchorman and Step Brothers under his belt, McKay was a good choice to imbue this ordinarily boring subject matter with a light hearted, sarcastic quality. The large ensemble cast with high caliber names such as Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling is sure to make The Big Short a hit with mainstream audiences; and in my opinion they are all on top form. Bale plays Michael Burry, the managing director of a hedge fund company. A somewhat socially inward character finding comfort in numbers rather than people, who spends most of his time in his office listening to heavy metal at excruciating volumes whilst bare foot.
When you take a closer look, only then can you see what’s right under your nose.
Steve Carrell plays Mark Baum, who runs an investment team and functions as the film's heart and moral compass. He’s honest and loves to hate his job, something his wife feels he needs to address, that and the loss of a family member. He’s highly strung and arguably the main character as it’s him and his small team that do the digging to discover just how corrupt the banks and government are. And then we have Pitt, as Ben Rickert, an eccentric recluse who’s decided to leave the world of banking behind him in favour of tending to an allotment. Rickert isn’t really in the film all that much but comes to the aid of small time investors Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) and Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and helps them jump on the band waggon that Burry and Baum are already riding, leaving them all to wait for the inevitable crash to begin.
The Big Short is a smart, witty and funny film which makes the subject of investing and banking palatable to those who have no interest or even a basic understanding of the subject. It tries to touch on the devastation that the crash caused but doesn’t really pay too much attention to delivering the hard hitting truth and when the film does try, it all feels a bit forced and only doing it because it feels it should. The film finishes with facts about what happened following the crash and left me thinking that I really should have been paying much more attention to what was going on around me at the time!
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