While I disagree with the number of Oscar nods everyone thinks this film will get, I can definitely agree how strong the film is regardless. Adam McKay, fresh off his screenwriting success with Ant-Man, gets a crack at detailing the 2007 housing market crash with fresh and engaging details, much to the delight and sadness of the audience.
By Kenneth Shipp
The Big Short tells the story of Dr. Michael Berry (Christian Bale), who initially figures out a majority of the mortgages inside mortgage bonds are bad and will end up defaulting. This leads to his crazy (at the time) notion to bet against the housing market. From here, we eventually get connected to the various players who stumble onto the weird deal. Ryan Gosling plays the suave banker Jared Vennett, who narrates our tale, (hilariously breaking the 4th wall multiple times) is the most animated and adamant character pursuing this bet on the bubble, eventually drawing in Mark Baum (Steve Carrell) and his highly skeptical staff, among other players.
The movie employs many clever ways to help us with the various stock market and housing lingo. Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez, and Anthony Bourdain assist with some 4th wall explanations of different definitions: Robbie sipping champagne in a hot tub, Gomez explaining the faulty logic of betting on a hot hand in a casino, and Bourdain using old and mix-matched fish to demonstrate how bad mortgages get repackaged. It was a very interesting way to keep the audience entertained and engaged without dropping a bunch of jargon on us. This kept us informed the entire time and allows us to stay in tune without missing a beat.
While I found that Carrell and Pitt do a decent job, Gosling and Bale shine the most with their parts. The hilarity that Gosling is able to bring out coupled with Bale’s investment to Dr. Berry’s disabilities works very well (Especially given they spent no time together on screen.) Vennett (Gosling) is able to really take charge during his presentation to Baum (Carrell) and contains his best moments berated by his own staff and trying to convince Baum that the bubble exists and will pop. Berry (Bale) demonstrates his work best early on when he initially tries to secure the initial mortgage short and cracking the information. He’s great in spots after that, but the other actors make better use of their time later in the film.
As fun as this film is to watch and understand, there is also a certain amount of sadness that comes over. Realizing how hopeless the situation described by The Big Short is, it is certainly a great mirror to hold up to society and wonder what we are really doing. The lack of change that accompanied one of the largest financial meltdowns in recent memory and beyond is astonishing. A great comment made in the film highlights that regardless of the negligence these major banks established, at the end of the day, they knew they could get bailed out. The fun ride we were on during the first hour gets the brakes pumped hard as the various players in the short attempt to “cash out” and are almost unable to because of how crooked the system is and still is today. If Adam McKay wanted to send you home with a message, he is certainly able to in the last hour with great effect. This comes at a cost though, as the last half of the film doesn’t seem as nearly as polished compared to the first hour.
With an excellent combination of actors, superb performances from Gosling and Bale, all without shying away from financial jargon, The Big Short is a wild ride of financial turmoil. There is certainly never a dull moment and you will be invested to see how this rag tag group of men pull off something so many were unable to.
The Big Short: 9 out of 10
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