If you have severe trust issues with large scaled corporations and big banks, then The Big Short is going to confirm all of your greatest fears and most cynical suspicions in the worst way. And unfortunately, for the thousands of people impacted by the reality of these events, it’s true. All of it.
The Big Short is a confident, taut, analytical and riotously entertaining dissection of the pending financial crisis in 2008 and the outsiders who not only predicted the housing bubble, but were also daring enough to bet against the banks, while the rest of the country collapsed into a devastating recession.
If the economic and financial particulars of the GFC still don’t make sense to you, don’t worry, this film has been tailor made to allow everyone to gain a more comprehensive understanding of precisely what went down. It’s a strange concoction of docudrama and tongue-in-cheek humour that provides more than enough evidence to affirm and justify your anger with the unconscionable and rampant corporate greed that caused it all.
Writer/director Adam McKay is mostly known by the masses as the man who seems best equipped to document the absurd and inspired buffoonery of Will Ferrell and co. (Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers), but The Big Short is a unique opportunity for the filmmaker to flex his contemplative dramatic sensibilities as well. Although some audience members may find the frequent and sudden shifting in editing style and tone jarring, others may revel in the dark, cheeky world that McKay creates and then condemns.
McKay, along with fellow co-writer Charles Randolph, work a miracle out of subject matter that is far too complex for your general audience to competently follow. That’s not an elitist statement either. This reviewer struggled to fully keep track of all the hedge funds, tranches, collateralised debt obligations and AAA ratings being swung around the room. Thankfully, whenever the number crunching and financial jargon become too onerous, the director quickly spins his camera out towards the fourth wall and employs a number of well-known celebrities to break down the high economics in simple layman terms. Because nothing gets the point across better than a naked Margot Robbie, sipping Champagne in a bubble bath.
Despite their horrible wigs, the talented all-star cast are predictably, as great as advertised. Headlined by Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt, the film does a remarkable job at convincing the audience to root for these gentlemen, even though we’re fully aware of what their success means for the rest of us. They’re not heroes. Their plan isn’t to prevent or expose this corruption. While some of the characters are conflicted by the ramifications of their discovery, every single one of them are there to cash in. We learn to accept them as underdogs, only because we loathe those responsible even more.
This is not the first film to tackle the events that led to the GFC (see 99 Homes, Inside Job, Margin Call etc), but it may be the first that uses comedy as an effective means to reach out to audiences, especially the victims who are dealing with the tragedy. Perhaps rather than purely making sense of the drama, McKay thought that laughter would be the best means for those affected to experience some sort of recourse or catharsis for what’s happened to them.
The Big Short is scathingly funny and impeccably well researched, but ultimately, it’s a terrifying film that is going to anger and upset a lot of people. The film cuts deep into the veins of capitalism and exposes the absurdity of the system that we are forced to believe in and buy into. We laugh, we chuckle, but we also feel deeply sickened by these bastards that got away with it and we’re almost completely helpless against the sins of man repeating themselves.