You probably wouldn’t expect a film about the financial crisis that bought the world to its knees in 2008 to be particularly funny, but The Big Short doesn’t just break the mould, it positively smashes it on this front
This is a tale of how three groups of unrelated men not only forecasted the collapse of the world’s economy, but decided to profit on the greedy bankers who were responsible for the crisis.
It opens with Jared Venne (Ryan Gosling) talking to the camera, explaining how the banking sector went from boring to a fat cat boy’s club in the blink of an eye. From here the tone is set for the next 130 minutes.
Next we meet Dr Michael Burry (Christian Bale), an eccentric ex-physician who works out the US housing market has been built on a bubble that’s close to bursting. The brainy hedge fund manager shuns traditional office attire, preferring instead to roam his building barefoot in shorts and a T-shirt listening to heavy metal. However his brilliance in the field shouldn’t be underestimated and he soon puts the wheels in motion to earn mega bucks from the imminent collapse of the mortgage world.
Then there’s Mark Baum (Steve Carell), who may seem angry most of the time, but has become successful thanks to his no bulls**t approach to Wall Street. He and his team Vinnie (Jeremy Strong), Porter (Hamish Linklater) and Danny (Rafe Spall) are about to have the deal – and scandal – of a lifetime fall into their laps, when Jared accidently phones their office with news about the looming mortgage fall out.
Lastly there are eager investors Charlie (John Magaro) and Jamie (Finn Wittrock), who have spun a small amount of money into a vast sum and now want to play at the big boy’s table. They also stumble upon the looming financial crisis, and with the help of neighbour Ben (Brad Pitt), a jaded trader who’s turned his back on finance, they want their piece of the pie.
This is essentially a story of three groups of people who never meet, but have the same agenda. Adam McKay’s directing is masterful, and his movie is sliced with quick sequences, clever cutaways and shot through with great music. The documentary style of the shoot also feels fresh. Most of the film is fast paced and slick, and the use of famous faces acting as themselves, explaining the more complicated aspects of banking jargon is genius.
While this is A-class enjoyment, it’s not a comedy. The subject is no laughing matter, although there are plenty of laughs to be had in this film. However, nominating the movie for a Golden Globe comedy award does a disservice to the cast and crew who worked on the feature. As does the film’s best comedy accolade and Bale’s best actor in a comedy award at the recent Critics’ Choice Awards. Bale’s best supporting Oscar nomination is far more deserved.
Cast wise, it really is as mighty as it sounds. Not one of the Hollywood A-listers put a foot wrong, but Carell and Bale do shine slightly brighter than the others. Carell is a tremendous actor, and does a top job of reminding people there’s more to him than just funny.
The only criticism is that it’s possibly 10 minutes too long. Cutting it off at a solid two hours would have made it sharper, but it’s a small point to make for such a smart, slick film. Be warned though, you’ll leave the theatre questioning the bankers and government bodies you so readily entrust your money too. Unsettling is an understatement.
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