Movie Review – The Big Short

The Big Short’s stacked cast and energetic direction saves an otherwise alienating and infuriating financial-thriller.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Tom Munday

The Big Short effectively tackles one of the 21st Century’s biggest man-made disasters – The Global Financial Crisis. The film, like many financial dramas, is a fascinating insight into a worldwide riches-to-rags story.

Coasting through 2007 and 2008, the story chronicles three intertwining plot-strands to paint a terrifying picture of our era. The central thread chronicles the pursuits of Michael Burry (Christian Bale), who defies the rules and risks billions to aggravate his superiors. Meanwhile, Mark Baum (Steve Carell), an independent hedge fund manager convinced Wall Street is the next superpower, teams with Deutsche Bank trader Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) to alert and alarm the big banks. Cornwall Capital founders Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock), seeking veteran stockbroker Ben Rickert’s (Brad Pitt) advice, turn a $110, 000 hedge fund into $120 million by turning against the world economy.

Based on Michael Lewis’ controversial book of the same name, The Big Short sticks to the truth. Director Adam McKay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights) diverts from the norm to discuss the topic he is most passionate about. McKay and co. aptly approach, break down, comment on, and lambaste every aspect of the 2008 crash.

McKay’s direction pushes The Big Short along at a cracking pace. Aware of financial jargon complexities, McKay’s flourishes are welcome bursts of energy. The narration and breaking-the-fourth-wall moments pull the audience into this ensuing madness. Barry Ackroyd’s frenetic cinematography adds to the effect, depicting each character’s distorted and steadily unravelling point of view.

Occasionally, McKay and co. fail to connect to the average filmgoer. Blinded by his liberal, anti-authoritarian agenda, McKay occasionally preaches rather than informs. Despite the fun cast and direction, he and Charles Randolph’s mile-a-minute script includes its fair share of convoluted lingo and exposition. Extended chatter about sub-prime mortgages, varying types of loans, and stock may be jarring for the majority of viewers.

The film’s star-studded cast succeeds in charging through the dialogue, the emotional moments, and also the laugh-out-loud moments. Bale provides his most heartfelt performance yet as the Asperger’s suffering, glass eye wielding lead. Fusing his tragic backstory and peculiar behaviour, Bale imbues depth into an over-the-top role. Carell, one of many actors sporting a heinous haircut, is charming as the film’s heart and soul. Gosling is a comic delight as the reliable narrator/enthusiasm machine.

The Big Short is almost a great, bang-for-your-buck Oscar contender. Indeed, the cast and director deserve praise for putting a new spin on the issue, however, the jarring dialogue and convoluted plot keep it from Wolf of Wall Street-level dizzying heights.

The Big Short is available in Australian cinemas from January 14th 

Images courtesy of Paramount Pictures 

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