The Big Short


Director: Adam McKay.
Screenplay: Adam McKay, Charles Randolph.
Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo, Tracy Letts, Karen Gillan, Hamish Linklater, Jeffry Griffin, Adepero Oduye, John Magaro, Finn Wittrock, Anthony Bourdain, Selena Gomez, Margot Robbie.

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so”

Better known for his comedy films like Anchorman, Step Brothers and Talladega Nights, The Big Short is a big leap for director Adam McKay. Going from improvised Will Ferrell gags to dealing with the true story of the global financial crisis of 2008 is quite a departure from his usual comfort zone. If truth be told, I’m not a fan of his comedies and had some strong reservations about this but it was hard to resist seeing such quality actors sink their teeth into a very personal subject that has affected us all.

Hedge fund managers Michael Burry (Christian Bale) and Mark Baum (Steve Carell), trader Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) and retired banker Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) all work within the financial sector. However, they see a problem arising; the housing credit market is about to collapse and no-one but them can see it coming. They see it as a perfect time to invest against the banks and make money from what turns out to be the fall of the global economy.First off, The Big Short is not an easy film to like. It’s so dialogue laden that the bankers and brokers jargon can leave you scratching your head in bewilderment. There’s really only so much talk of C.D.O’s, Short’s and Subprime’s that a person can take but that’s exactly the point. McKay knows this and he’s clever enough to point out that the bankers want it this way. They want the ordinary, every-day working stiff to think it’s only them that know how to manage our money for us. McKay doesn’t pull any punches and goes straight for the jugular when it’s comes to the inner dealings of these immoral and reckless financial swindlers who brought down the world economy. He depicts their carefree avarice in such a detestable way that you’re left infuriated. If this was his intention (which I’m sure it was) then you have to say that his film is a success. However, the manner in which he does it can be off-putting. There’s a kinetic energy to McKay’s direction and, although impressive, it’s a little messy with too many jump cuts and forth-wall-breaking moments. Despite his best efforts, his stylistic devices don’t always help you to understand the complexity of these events and he finds it tricky to fully transcend the confusion by employing a frantic pace to everything. That said, this is a hugely difficult subject to tackle and he does deserve some credit for managing any form of coherence at all. McKay is clearly angry and it’s an anger I, wholeheartedly, share. His scathing attack on the fraudulent activities of these people is potent. His message (and conscience) is clear and his attempt to bring it to a mainstream audience, with quality actors in tow, is an admirable one.It’s a good ensemble he’s put together and they all deliver fine work; Pitt is the one who takes a back seat and seems underused but Carell proves that his dramatic chops from Foxcatcher was no fluke while Bale has some fun with his eccentric glass-eyed turn. From the leads, I found Gosling to be the most comfortable with his cocksure wolfishness and it’s always a pleasure to have the likes of Melissa Leo and Marisa Tomei make an (albeit brief) appearance. I can only hope that with such a recognisable cast that the masses wake from their slumber and pay attention to, not so much the disjointed film itself, but the message and teaching behind it.It’s not an entirely successful endeavour as it struggles to entertain without getting bogged down in investment lingo but it’s an important morality tale with a message that still resonates. If Joy is this year’s film to embrace the capitalist system then The Big Short is the indictment of it.Mark Walker

Trivia: Michael Lewis, the author of the book on which its adapted from, revealed in an interview that Paramount, the studio distributing the film, allowed director and screen writer Adam McKay to make this film only if he agreed to make a sequel to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.

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26 Responses to “The Big Short”

  1. Nice review Mark. As a fan of of Lewis’ book, I was surprised how well McKay translated the text on screen. Like you I had an issue with breaking of the fourth wall, but the acting was top-notch (particularly by Carell and Bale) and I think it manages to distill the lead-up to the great recession quite well. One of the better films of 2015 in my opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a good film, Charles. I did admittedly struggle with business talk on occasion as it was so relentless. Still, putting all this together couldn’t have been easy and the performances were great! I see Bale has nabbed himself another Oscar nom?! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Stellar review Mark, your use of description is marvellous man. I wanna give you a high five for it. Anyway back to your review, it certainly looks like an interesting movie. Thanks for the heads up on the breaking the fourth wall thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Loved reading this Markster. This movie never drew me to the theaters. There is something about its offbeat tone and ‘look how cool I am’ air that didn’t excite me. That last description may be unfair but the trailers seem to paint it that way. I will definitely see it especially considering how well it showed during this morning’s Oscar nominations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I liked it even though it was hard to follow sometimes. To be honest, though, I don’t see it as Oscar material. I don’t see how this was nominated as Best Picture and the brilliant likes of Ex Machina was snubbed. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

      • For me it feels likening of those movies that the Academy likes but that I don’t necessarily respond to. That happens a lot.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I often don’t respond to films they choose either. Some I don’t even get around to seeing. I’ve yet to see The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game from last year. I’m sure they’re pretty decent but I just don’t get the enthusiasm for them. I think they sometimes pick films just to look sophisticated sometimes. As it stands, Ex Machina is my favourite film of the year but I’ve, admittedly, got more to catch up with.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Good review. I enjoyed it but the jump cuts were a bit much, especially since we were in the front row of the theatre.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This sounds really interesting, great review Mark. I’m curious how it will play out, because I don’t like his first two films

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a good flick, man, but it’s HARD to keep up with the constant business talk. And even if you manage it, it’s sometimes a bit dull. What kept me going was seeing the overall impact these guys had on the economy.

      Like

      • Sounds like a nice challenge 🙂 I have free tix that expire and the end of the month so I think I’ll go see this anyway

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s worth seeing. No doubt about that.
        Be warned, though, it might just piss you right off. – not the film, but the events themselves.

        Like

      • I’m not really bothered by what happens in a film. Even if its a true story, its just a film. In fact, the more horrid the story the more interested I’ll probably be, as I have a dark taste in film.

        For example, I found A Serbian Film to be an utterly hilarious black comedy. ;P

        Liked by 1 person

      • Haha! You’re the first I’ve heard say that about A Serbian Film. To be honest, I haven’t seen it. I couldn’t bring myself to but now that you say that, I’m intrigued. 😉

        Like

      • Seen as a comedy, it is about as black as you can get. Its a slog to watch visually, but its so over the top I couldn’t help but giggle

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I think this is a very fair review that reflects my own concerns. I liked it less and scored it lower but man this film was very overwhelming, sometimes in good ways, but for me mostly in ways that were off-putting. I walked out of the theater feeling like I had been lectured for 2+ hours and I did’t much care for Ryan gosling in it. But it was interesting to see how McKay made the jump from inane comedy to a drama (albeit one with a comedic edge). Good stuff bro-ski

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheers mucker! Yeah, As much as I liked this, I wanted to like it more, you know? The events and the impact it had really interest me but it was hard to properly connect with the style that McKay went with. Like I mention in the review, though, how do you go about a story like this and translate the business end of things without ostracising the viewer somewhat? I think he done a good job and I enjoyed the cast too but it did lose me at times. I considered 4 stars at one point and then I changed my mind to 3 stars. It was a hard film to rate, so I decided on meeting in the middle.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Enjoying these shorter reviews Mark. Very digestible, easier to remain enthused I bet?

    I wanted to like this film a lot more, but found it too smug and slick for it’s own good. Not in an endearing and over the top way like Wolf of Wall Street, but by dwelling so much into the detail, ironically somehow it felt like it lacked any substance to it. Just a bunch of people arguing about numbers and nothing really being done about it – truth is, that’s all that happened when you boil it down?

    I don’t know, it was very interesting and no doubt it will win a few awards, but I expected more from it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I expected a bit more too, man. To be honest, I don’t see it as awards worthy. I did enjoy it quite a bit but it was very difficult to remain interested when it was so loaded with detail. It’s an important film but not an entirely entertaining one.

      Liked by 1 person

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