Dir: Adam McKay (2015)
The 2008 financial crisis is played for laughs and anger (so much anger) in Adam McKay‘s ensemble comedy based on Michael Lewis’ bestselling novel of the same name. The Big Short focuses on a select few real life insiders who decided to bet big against the economy to profit from the housing markets inevitable bubble pop and in doing so wound up looking like rats draped in gold fleeing a sinking ship. There are a lot of big words, a lot of short four lettered ones and a lot of ridiculous acronyms to filter through but writer/director McKay manages to make a difficult subject somewhat enthralling with a whip smart script and a stellar cast.
Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell and Brad Pitt are but some of the rats; A numbers genius, a slimy salesman, a moralistic do-gooder and the old faithful are represented well here and they all do a fine job in making some unappetising dialogue taste like a fine wine. Less can be said for McKay’s cut and paste stylistic choices; A whip-pan, zooming documentary feel doesn’t quite add to the chaos in the way it should and some rather random editing choices feel forced and showy. Nothing in the mis-en-scene compares to having Margot Robbie in a bubble bath break down the state of American mortgages; These fourth wall breakers do offer some slight relief from a film obviously leading to an inevitable and depressing moral white-out.
Bale shows us the intensity he’s well regarded for, Carell is fantastic as the films only real hero (at a reach), Gosling is good as a Gordon Gecko emulating crook, complete with dyed hair and fake tan and McKay also has an incredible list of support too including Rafe Spall, Melissa Leo and many many more. Weirdly though, there’s something missing. As important a film as The Big Short could have been in taking the barefaced assholery of a 2008 Wall Street to an Oscar loving audience, it feels as if it falls short on the power really needed to hit you in the heart and the head.
All up though, it’s a rambling, rapid fire breakneck mess and you can’t help but admire the pace and the gleeful tone which The Big Short utilises to tell its horrifically corrupt story. McKay plums the Aaron Sorkin handbook with endlessly entertaining walk and talks, looks right into the heart of Scorsese’s excellent The Wolf of Wall Street but sadly right past JC Chandor‘s brilliant Margin Call to give us a flawed but wildly entertaining blow by blow of how America nearly destroyed the finacial world… and then went right back to business. Dark, funny, infuriating and flowing but it sadly doesn’t live up to its promised returns.