The Big Short covers the events of the 2007-08 financial crisis, which was basically the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The film kicks off with Hedge fund manager and all round numbers genius Michael Burry realising that the American housing market is teetering on the edge due to it being based on subprime loans. He’s so confident of the imminent collapse that he knows he can profit from this by betting against the housing market through the banks themselves. Obviously, the banks lap this up laughing to his face and gladly accepting his money. News of Burry’s actions soon spreads and we follow the journey of how we all ended up in this big mess.
Director Adam McKay is best known for his website Funny or Die and his out and out comedies: Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers. However, here he constructs a beautifully thought-provoking film telling an immensely jaw-dropping and at times complicated tale with wit and panache.
Christain Bale is as watchable as ever as neurotic numbers guy and hedge fund manager Michael Burry. As always he gives it his all and goes the extra mile (including the best drum solo since the gorilla in the Cadbury’s ad) to bring a truly entertaining performance to the screen.
Steve Carell has well and truly shed his comedic typecasting and he shines in yet another dramatic role. He plays Mark Baum, an uptight anger management needing crusader with a painful past that makes him fight for the little guy. A wonderful and endearing portrayal layered with passion and emotion.
Brad Pitt is another eccentric numbers whizz as retired banker Ben Rickert. Less screen time does not mean he’s not memorable here. His clean living and paranoia let you laugh uncomfortably as you realise he’s probably on to something and his behaviour is not so peculiar but, in fact, more sensible knowing what he knows.
Ryan Gosling has plenty of comedic swagger as trader Jared Vennett the who acts partially as our Goodfellas style narrator, as well as regularly breaking the fourth wall to both entertain and educate us.
Despite the devastating nature of the topic somehow McKay still manages to bring out the laughs in what ultimately is a real life horror story of global proportions. The Big Short is excellently structured and paced. It’s quirky and clever, even successfully allowing the film’s characters to regularly break the fourth wall. It also gets away with introducing real-life celebrities to explain the more complicated financial jargon but don’t worry this doesn’t mean the film loses it’s focus or gravitas. It’s all good fun, and it does help take your mind off the absolute atrocities committed by the banking industry. Today’s social media click bait world means that the general public is generally more interested in celebrity culture than in politics or the economy, so why not combined them and who knows maybe some of the important stuff might just stick.
The Big Short sees big stars tackle the global financial crisis with wit, celeb cameos and some award-worthy performances.
Reviewed by Ingrid Grenar & Ian Wright.