The Big Short (2015) Movie Review

A Big Win

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In 2011 “Margin Call” took a look at the 2008 financial collapse of the housing market from the perspective of one investing firm in 24 a hour time span.  Earlier last year “99 Homes” took a look at the crisis from a macro viewpoint at people who lost their homes during the crisis. Adam McKay’s adaptation of Michael Lewis takes aim at the financial crisis at a much larger and grand level in “The Big Short”.  The story of “The Big Short” takes a look at the events from the people who predicted the housing market would collapse.

Making up those sets of characters are Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Finn Witlock, and Max Greenfield.  An impressive lineup of cast members, even more impressive is most of these characters don’t interact with one another.  There is a different groups which keeps the audience following three groups of people throughout the 144 minute long runtime.  It’s a balancing act to keep each storyline interesting and finding which ones to discover new information for the audience and which ones to not.  Since these are three loosely connected but ultimately separate storylines you could run into the trouble of repeating the same information too often.  Here instead the screenwriters cleverly use it as an opportunity to not only get a new perspective on the events but also give a little repetition to put it into our heads which information is most important.

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Making an adaptation of Michael Lewis’s “Moneyball” was no easy task, but director Bennett Miller proved he was up for it. Adam McKay’s job of adapting “The Big Short” is equally, if not more difficult than the previous prospective.  With “Moneyball” you still have the game of Baseball to excite audiences, “The Big Short” is a lot of reading numbers, complex financial dialogue and a lot of watching people watching computer screens.  There isn’t much excitement to be had.  So, “The Big Short” could easily turn into a bore very quickly.

For some I believe will lose interest but director Adam McKay manage to craft a picture that could be accessible but mostly anyone.  “Margin Call” got so wrapped up into the Wall Street speak that for the general public that isn’t already predisposed to knowing that knowledge needed to keep up with the dialogue would abandon it quickly.  “The Big Short” has high amounts of energy, with breaking of the fourth wall, a constant moving camera, lots of editing and understanding of itself.  There will be times the movie will grind to a halt when financial jargon gets overdone for a celebrity cameo to come in and break everything down to laminose terms that us simple folk (that includes myself) will understand.  This effect keeps the audiences invested in what’s happening without insulting their intelligence.

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Adam McKay of “Anchorman”, “Step Brothers” and “Talladega Knights” fame gives himself over to his first “serious” drama of his career.  A prospect that intrigued me from the get go.  You can see through every frame of this movie that he is passionate about this topic.  It doesn’t ever feel preachy but you get this sense that this is a topic near and dear to him.  That passion carries over into the final product. The best thing  McKay injects into the movie is a sense of how grand this events actually are.  We all lived through the financial collapse of 2008 but as time goes by it’s easy to forget just how awful it really was.  “The Big Short” puts the events in a very important perspective.

The cast is tremendous.  Christian Bale is great in the film playing a socially awkward encomiastic investor that first discovers the fate of the housing market (a very different type of role from him).  He is getting most of the attention from the serious awards groups.  However as good as he is Steve Carell outshines him in one of his best performances of his career.  I was fearful he was going to be playing angry Michael Scott (from “the Office”).  I was right about one thing, he was angry in this movie, but far from playing Michael Scott again.  Steve commends every moment he is on screen with his dynamic presence.  He nails every dramatic moment while mixing in his small deadpan comedic lines.  “Foxcatcher” showed he  was capable of playing in a drama, “The Big Short” just confirms our suspicions and proves “Foxcatcher” was no fluke.

The rest of the cast performs expertly as well.  Even though they don’t have large parts but Melissa Leo and Marisa Tomei are wonderful as well.  Brad Pitt doesn’t have as large of a role as you might expect in this type of film but never over steps his bounds and over shines the young actors he accompanies.  Ryan Gosling plays the biggest tool I’ve seen in recent motion picture history…but he is damn good at it.  His character helps us navigate the tricky terrain and provides the narration to the picture.

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If there is one issue with the movie I would say Adam McKay’s style is sometimes so unique and bonkers that sometimes I wished he’d tone it down a little.  His decision to make the movie feel like a documentary with the sloppy but calculated camera movements is for the most part work well.  However other times it’s a little too overdone.  It’s not too glaring or distracting just something that did become bothersome from time to time.  Outside of that, “The Big Short” is a much better movie then I was expecting.  It’s complex yet at the same time it’s able to ground it’s tricky subject matter down to Earth.  It has outstanding performances and a terrific outing from Adam McKay whom I hope decides to jump back and forth from his “Funny or Die” comedy and his passionate and serious dramatic pieces.

Final Score

8.5/10

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