The Big Short: Off-Beat, Star-Studded Drama About the 2008 Financial Crisis
For a director that has made his name off the back of comedy, Adam McKay has handled his first dramatic feature-length project with a great amount of finesse. Inspired by Michael Lewis’ 2010 non-fiction book, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, the film offers a compelling look into the heart of the 2008 financial crisis and, although you might occasionally find yourself lost in its details, McKay’s comedic background and A-list cast are there to keep things on an even keel.
Set in New York city, the story begins with the introduction of Michael Burry (Bale); a heavy-metal loving and socially inept money manager who discovers a widespread pattern of fraud in the subprime mortgage market – one of the strongest arenas in the American economy – which, according to his predictions, will slowly begin to crumble in the second half of 2007. Looking to bet against the system, Burry’s investment plans will only work if the system collapses; a notion that doesn’t sit all too well with his colleagues or investors who strongly believe that he has lost his mind.
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, outspoken hedge fund manager, Mark Baum (Carell), is approached by power-hungry trader, Jared Vennnet (Gosling), who has also caught wind of the holes in the system and also wants to profit from its foretold demise. Finding themselves on the same gambling boat, are small-time investors, Charlie Geller (Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Wittrock) who, with the guidance of a friend and a retired financial strategist, Ben Rickert (Pitt), are hoping that they too, will be able to turn things to their advantage.
Not unlike Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, The Big Short explores the subjects of money, greed and corruption with a certain level of flair. Tapping into the intricate world of finance, the film takes these serious issues seriously, but the underlying tone of comedy, which finds its characters often breaking the fourth wall, provides a peculiar but refreshingly unique viewing experience.
Carrell once again proves that he’s not a one-trick comedy pony and Bale is as committed as always, but it’s best not to dwell on Gosling’s ridiculous hairdo and orange tan too much. Overall, however, the film largely manages to straddle the line between its heavy subject matter and the comedic touches that keep it accessible. Prepare to be morally outraged and partially amused.