The Big Short tells the story of the financial meltdown of 2008. That, conceptually, doesn’t sound like an exciting film, but the screenwriters, Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, do a great job of turning what could be dry subject matter into a humorous and tension filled film, even as you know how it must end.
Everyone is familiar with the financial meltdown at this point, and the film takes you on an inside view of the people who saw it coming. They explain it in a way that’s easy to understand without being condescending. As a result, by the end of the film, you are extremely frustrated, because things haven’t changed, and there is no sign that they’re going to.
The film has a large cast, including Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Finn Wittrock, Max Greenfield, Marissa Tomei, and Melissa Leo, as well as numerous others, and the way they all interplay shows how complicated and immoral, as well as fraudulent, the events that led up to the economic downfall of the housing market were, and the stress it caused, no matter what side you were on, whether you were making money from the long or the short investment, or whether you were an average person trying to have a place to live.
Conceptually, it has some parallels to 2015’s The Wolf of Wall Street, which was also about financial excess, but this comes at it from a different angle, and tells the story while keeping in mind that those watching were very likely effected by this economic catastrophe. The filmmakers don’t expect you to find humor in what happened, even as you find yourself laughing at many situations that come up along the way.
This is an important film, because it makes a complicated concept digestible, while also keeping it entertaining. It allows the viewer to leave the theater feeling like they understand a lot more of what happened, but more confused as to what can be done, and feeling more powerless armed with more knowledge than you did with less knowledge. It’s a story of the combination of ineptitude, greed, and immorality, all coming together to create a global disaster.
Randolph and McKay did a fantastic job writing this story. McKay also directed the film using brilliant camera work, with cuts that show excess and contrasts of power, bringing the stress home to the viewer.
The Big Short is in theaters now, and is nominated for multiple Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Christian Bale, Best Director, and Best Screenplay.
Rating: ****/**** (4/4)