When the financial meltdown happened in 2007-2008 it was a catastrophe worldwide. However it was preventable and the idea the housing market could induce a financial meltdown was being talked about years before it happened. The Big Short concerns a group of individuals who predicted the meltdown and in turn profited from the meltdown. The group included hedge fund managers and Wall Street traders.
The person who figures it out is Michael Burry (Christian Bale) who is eccentric and possibly on the Aspergers spectrum. He basically bets against the housing market and when is fails he will make bank but his investors are not happy and threaten to pull out but he sticks in there. The film is narrated by the Trader Jared Vennett played by Ryan Gosling who is a banker who hears about Burry from one of the bankers Burry did business with. The fund manager Mark Baum (Steve Carell) learns of this and joins up with Vennett. Brad Pitt appears in a small role as securities trader Ben Rickert who has dropped out of the business but his interest is peaked again.
Adam McKay who is best known for his comedy work such as Anchorman clearly has been dying to make something in a more serious vein. He certainly learned his tricks from the work of Martin Scorsese with the characters breaking the fourth wall and the flashy nature of the editing. Given his background in comedy the film is full of humour but the tone switches too freely from seriousness to broader comedic moments. The film also lacks the gleeful insanity of Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street which was flat-out hilarious throughout.
The cast McKay assembled is obviously a dream cast of Hollywood A-Listers. Christian Bale as always completely inhabits the role so much so he learned how to play drums for the role. Despite Gosling being the narrator and arguably star of the film it’s really Bale’s more nuanced performance which keeps it together. Gosling’s performance is a tad too scene chewy for my liking and I much prefer Gosling when he does acting with his eyes like in his collaborations with Nicolas Winding Refn.
Steve Carell given his comedic stylings is given more space to show that off but also shows his dramatic range which to be honest is probably where his future is headed. Pitt who also produced the film is at the point at his career where he can just step into a small role to great success. Due to the heavy beard and glasses it doesn’t have the minor problem he had in 12 Years a Slave when you’re like “Hey it’s Brad Pitt!”. Marisa Tomei and Melissa Leo give brief but solid support turn sas well, like Wall Street the film is very much a Boys club.
The Big Short is an important slice of dramedy which tells in a mainstream pop fashion what went down during 2007-2008. It’s a warning that these problems are still out there and Wall Street just changes the name so it remains a ticking time bomb to blow up anytime again. The US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders who is the only candidate who seriously wants to reform the practices of the Wall Street has endorsed the film as well. The disc contains a handful of short featurettes which give some context to the film along with 6 minutes of deleted scenes.