"Do you have any idea what you just did? You just bet against the American economy."
I have to admit I’m overdue in finally getting around to seeing ‘The Big Short’. But it’s here now and I’m already annoyed that I didn’t see it sooner, because usually financial movies are concerned about greed and consumerism within its main characters. ‘The Big Short’ concerns itself with people on the edge of that world of corruption and greed but don’t quite fall over the edge, we rarely see the world of Wall Street from that perspective so does that make it unique?
The true story of a group of analysts working in the Wall Street area who discover that the American housing market is on the verge of total collapse, and no one is doing anything to stop it. It chronicles their reaction to the issue and their resolve to try and gain some solace over those responsible for the disaster.
To answer my earlier question, ‘The Big Short’ is especially unique under the direction of Adam McKay (can we please take a moment to acknowledge that ‘Anchorman’ can now carry the caption, from the Oscar nominated director, how awesome is that?). It may seem like an odd choice but when you really stop and think about the style of McKay’s films they all have some underlying intellect to them. For all of ‘Anchorman’s’ random, rapid fire, Python-esque comedy there is a sense of social satire in the exploitive nature of the media, the gender lines that permeate our society and the extravagance of fame. Or maybe that’s just me, do those details really exist, I need to watch that movie again.
I’ll assume I’m right for the time being because ‘The Big Short’ virtually switches over that formula, with the big societal themes being underpinned by the simple comedic tragedy of the situation. It reminded me of ‘Network’ in a certain sense, I didn’t know whether to laugh or be horrified. They are not two separate entities either as the script and direction often blend them together excellently, such as the celebrity cameos from the likes of Margot Robbie and Selina Gomez, on hand merely to explain a banking term of concept to the audience. McKay knows we are more likely to pay attention to something (no matter how important) if it’s being told by a celebrity, isn’t that just a little bit tragic, as well as hilarious?
What’s even more troubling is that it works. I found myself being able to comprehend every complex and detailed term that was used in the movie. As professional analysist started dropping the financial terms into conversations I had no trouble keeping up, after a while I even stated to laugh along with the characters, not just at them.
As a result of the film being able to explain its plot so easily, it moves with a clear momentum and at a pleasing pace. The movie never drags but nor is it ever rushed, it just feels right. It’s easy to be entertained by this movie, but it’s even easier to be appalled and angry as you discover just what bankers across America did in order to sustain their own lavish income, a system that was described by Michael Shannon in ’99 Homes’ as being built “by the winners and for the winners”.
But throughout all of these conflicting emotions, ‘The Big Short’ is held together by the excellence of its cast. Each one carries a different reaction to the events and a fresh perspective so we as an audience can really gain a complete portrait of the disaster. Christian Bale plays a fact based man, someone who is made aware of this situation just from factual data and statistics rather than any human attachment and still becomes equally appalled by the disaster. Steve Carell’s performance is one of anger and shock, while Ryan Gosling is probably the closest to our personified version of a banker, someone who sniffs out deals and brings a certain charisma to each scene. Brad Pitt is simply a do-gooder but even that role carries kore depth than one would initially think, almost satirising the role he plays within the plot.
Their performances are so authentic that by being filmed in such a documentarian style, sometimes the direction of ‘The Big Short’ can prove a little distracting. I’d say McKay deserves his nomination but there are some rather odd moments that don’t seem to have any meaning behind them, just existing for the sake of innovation. Sometimes it works but at other times it momentarily takes you out of the movie.
‘The Big Short’ is both entertaining and provocative, it’s as humorous as it is horrifying.