The Big Short – Review

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Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Marisa Tomei, Rafe Spall, Hamish Linklater, Jeremy Strong, John Magaro, Finn Wittrock
Based upon the book of the same name by: Michael Lewis
Adapted for the screen by: Charles Randolph and Adam McKay
Directed by: Adam McKay
IMDb Score: 7.8
Metacritic Score: 81
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%
Winner of One Academy Award for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay. Nominated for 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor (Christian Bale)

Rated R for pervasive language and some sexuality/nudity

The Wall Street Financial Crisis of 2008 has been the subject of countless documentaries and one criminally underrated film gem (Margin Call) since the Sub-Prime Mortgage bubble burst that year. It’s an equally fascinating and anger inducing subject to talk about and odds are, even after The Big Short, it will still be completely mined through in the next few years.

The Big Short‘s difference between Margin Call and the other documentaries is how it decides to tackle the subject: it’s a bio-pic with some comedy thrown in to make the innards of the subject more palatable. Now, how does this film come out overall?

Four brokers in the high stakes world of high finance; Dr. William Curry (Bale), Mark Baum (Carell), Jared Vennett (Gosling) and Ben Rickert (Pitt), predict that there is a housing bubble and it will burst as they bet short stocks against the housing market.

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After watching The Big Short I wrestled with one question that film critics often discuss to themselves while constructing their thoughts: Why would someone watch The Big Short?

This isn’t a testament to the quality of the film: it’s a good movie, so let that be to rest. If it’s a good movie you want, then that’s all you need.

No, I’m talking about exactly what does The Big Short try to do in the film to get its point across. And the film does some daring and interesting things to convey it’s points.

So, if you’re going in blind and don’t know the finer points of the Sub-Prime Mortgage bubble, which is more than likely most of you, then yes, you should watch it too.

Here’s the thing though: if you have watched Margin Call, which I have and loved, the majority of what is being talked about is something you will understand. That is probably very few of you, so not to worry.

A slight confession on my part: I was in retail banking when the bubble bursted in 2008, so I was already reading up on and getting educated on what happened as well as seeing the after effects of what happened on a public side. So, the facts that are laid bare in this film (with one exception) are something I was already well known about.

So, the power of the information in this film, which is one of it’s main power points to drive you into the film, had no effect on me whatsoever.

Is that fair to the film? Not entirely, but what they do deserve to be criticized on is how they convey those terms for the laymen. The film does a daring, somewhat jarring sidebar when they talk about the more obscure folds of banking that are still important by creating celebrity cameo sidebars.

An example would be you not wanting to talk about sex with your kid, so here’s Hollywood starlet and overall sex bomb Scarlett Johannson to talk about how to properly put a condom on your erect penis.

Good god I only can dream.

On one hand, the sidebars are good for a chuckle and can be informative, but they do come across more “here’s your banking for dummies segment” than it comes off as witty. This may be due to the fact that Gosling’s character is the unreliable narrator setting these up and his character is, for all intents and purposes, a douche.

Yet, there’s still a feeling of “OK dummy, now we can continue with the rest of the film” which was bothersome to feel while watching.

Still, the movie is entertaining and a rather enjoyable watch. This is mainly to do with Steve Carell’s fantastic performance in the movie. His performance as Mark Baum is the most layered out of any of the characters and is easily the most likable.

He essentially plays the audience of the film, marveling at the audacity of the subject, but he also is played off as the most passionate and flawed off the four main guys in the film. Carell took a character that could have been played as more annoying and counter-productive to the film and turned it into a character that is easily the most entertaining and the one you’ll be attached to.

The other three performances, however, are basically one dimensional at best. Gosling plays a complete jerk, Bale is a quiet (way too quiet) genius and Brad Pitt is Brad Pitt in a beard. These three didn’t have to flex much in the film: they only had to take up time essentially.

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This is still a recommendable film: it’s just there way of conveying this information is incredibly off-putting. Carell’s great performance and the brisk, energetic pace of the film helps make the film a great watch, but the film took a risky way of conveying information and it downgraded the film as such.

The Wiz Says #56

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