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Review - The Big Short

By midlandsmovies, Jan 12 2016 02:49PM

The Big Short (2016) Dir. Adam McKay

The combination of financial sector nuances during the 2007-2008 economic crisis and Anchorman director Adam McKay hardly sounds like cinematic gold but the quality assets of a celebrated cast and a well-structured screenplay lift new film The Big Short from a risky proposition to a sound investment.

Based upon the novel of the same name by Michael Lewis, the film stars a bowl-cut haired Christian Bale as an eccentric investor who seemingly predicts the inflated bubble of the US housing market. Much to the chagrin of his employers. Bale bets against the affluent market which seems foolishly risky to other banks who take his money hand over fist. Also along for this fun ride is a strangely haired Ryan Gosling (the film is littered with coiffed ‘barnets’) who hears of Bale’s plan and joins in to make some money. At another firm, the ferocious Steve Carrell – who again shows his dramatic chops as Mark Baum – is a man who at first refuses to believe the impending doom but then questions the common sense of those involved.

If those weren’t enough A-listers, Brad Pitt appears as Ben Rickertt, a retired old grizzly-Adams looking banker who is taken to by a couple of eager younger investors looking to get their first big win on the markets. However, as they wheel and deal, he chastises them about the impending economic hardships that will soon face the average family.

As the film reminds the viewer, the complexity and ruthlessness of the market helped create the situation and celebrities such as Selena Gomez and Margot Robbie (!) are used to hilarious effect in cut-scenes where they explain the finer details of banking procedures.

Each character brings a distinctive angle to the multifaceted story yet they are inexplicably intertwined like an unravelable combination of mortgage bonds. Whilst Gosling is merciless in his money making, Bale focuses on the rudimentary logic of the system (his binary brain enjoying the rhythmic patterns of drumming throughout) whilst Pitt and Carrell are the virtuous moral centre of this comedy drama. Pitt’s character is retired – seemingly already aware of the nasty business of the fiscal industry – whilst Carrell’s Baum has the biggest journey. He moves from selfish creature to principled detective who more than once is shocked by the convoluted system that surrounds him.

McKay handles all these scenes well and balances comedy and drama with aplomb. His improvisations from comedy seem to have found a natural place in this film too with performances spiralling just the right side of unrestrained. The intricacies of the markets are teased out to allow the audience to learn – not just to wag-a-finger – and the thorny morals of the narrative are shown from a variety of viewpoints.

An epilogue sees absolutely zero lessons learnt and none of the corrupt organisations held to account for their questionable practices, which is as damning as any of the slightly heavy-handed sermonizing sprinkled throughout.

McKay has stepped up a lot in his directorial game, investing in all-star actors and introducing some up and coming talent as well. Although at times The Big Short seems a bit Wolf of Wall Street-lite, the focus on the details makes this not just great entertainment but a great education.

7.5/10 Midlands Movies Mike

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