Review: The Big Short – A light-hearted lesson

The Big Short is the newest offering from director Adam McKay, containing an all-star cast featuring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt. It follows the stories of separate characters who managed to predict the credit and housing crisis of the mid-2000s, then used this information to attempt to swindle the big banks. As one might expect, its full of confusing financial jargon which at times detracts from the ideas its trying to get across – but it still succeeds in making the audience laugh and squirm with its final take-home message. The film’s recent best picture win at the recent Producers Guild Awards has helped it on its way to potential awards glory and it can now be counted amongst the favorites for the big prize at the 2016 Oscars.

Above all, this movie is witty, fast and funny. Cinematographer Barry Ackroyd helms the camera very well, his fluid movements helping to create a sense of urgency and suspense. McKay’s comedic roots also come to the fore in impressive ways, with quick cuts and quips that not only keep the story moving along but also add comedic elements to a film that without them could verge on the bad side of dull.

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Also superb is the acting, with an Oscar-nomination  standout performance from Christian Bale a highlight – in typical fashion, Bale is completely transformed as eccentric hedge fund manager Michael Burry, and creates a character that is the polar opposite of his turn as perfectionist Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. Steve Carell is another standout among greats, his Mark Baum a character who most of us would probably dislike in real life but who you can grow fond of and get behind as a character in this movie. Against those characters were Gosling and Pitt, whose performances were serviceable but lacked emotional depth, disappointing for two of the biggest stars in Hollywood.

Other parts of the film were also a let down, the opening half an hour feeling bloated by too much technical jargon, and even the humorous explanations of the main points tending to pull us out of the story. The score, by Nicholas Britell, is also largely absent, and only really noticeable on one or two occasions when loud drums kick in disruptively.

The Big Short is entertaining but often confusing. Nonetheless, its hard-hitting message will make you think.

James Berman

Images courtesy of Paramount Pictures

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