THE BIG SHORT
Directed by Adam McKay
Starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt
Both intelligent and overtly forthcoming, Adam McKay's surprise drama/comedy The Big Short is a slap in the face to the financial industry and a clever educational lesson to anyone confused by legal jargon.
Based upon the book of the same name, The Big Short is a sort-of opus to the downfall of the housing market. While we all felt the after effects of the largest drop in recent stock market history, McKay's highlighted version of events introduces us to certain characters who rode the crash to success. Christian Bale and Steve Carell (easily the standout) give the most impressive turns as real-life Michael Burry and Mark Baum, respectively. While some aspects of their individual performances could be attributed to nuances, the conviction involved creates a more believable, humbled character, rather than just a caricature.
In the fast-paced world of the stock market, any ounce of underlying change could resonate a ripple effect that reaches far wider than imagined. When four separate financial insiders pick up on a possible upset with the ominous credit bubble, mostly led by hints dropped by analyzer Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), the race for financial success is built on possible failure and perfect timing.
McKay tackles a difficult story arc. In fact, the plot itself is hard to really explain. What plays out as more of a serious mockumentary becomes a lesson to all people of the hidden agendas behind every financial move made. To parlay any sense of over-the-head legal babble, one of the more hilarious and beneficial recurring tools is McKay using pop culture figureheads to explain difficult terms and conditions with clever analogies. From Margot Robbie to Selena Gomez, these minor interruptions add to the unique experience a film of this caliber possesses.
It'd be easy to mark this off as too broad and too analytical to be considered good, but that is precisely why it works. Grounded on the outside by enriching performances by the entire cast (with not a single weak link), McKay, whose directorial past includes slapstick fare like Anchorman, delivers an honest approach to an important subject. It becomes a sort of lesson from the past for a new generation who may have seen heard of their ancestors' experiences during the Great Depression and witnessed their own family members' struggles with losing jobs and property.
The fight for what's right, however, is rooted in financial gain. This becomes the film's ultimate struggle. Each character knows that, by coming out on top, millions of people's lives will be effected. It's hard to remember that as you cheer for these archetypical anti-heroes. And, even in success, as Carell's character brilliantly shows, that moment of championship is difficult to celebrate.
While it sounds heavy, trust me, it isn't. The action is fast-paced and McKay packages this so tightly that it flashes from here to there. Marketing as a comedy, it's a little more drab than an all-out laugh fest, but there are moments that will make you chuckle out loud. It's an easier watch that the plot makes it sound and you'll walk away feeling smarter.
Runtime: 130 minutes