Saturday 28 May 2016

The Big Short

I love this time of year. All of the recent award season films start dropping onto our shelves, and we can revisit some of the years’ finest. Out now on DVD & Blu-ray comes The Big Short - one of the best films of the year and, in my eyes, the film that was robbed of the Best Picture award by the rather overrated Spotlight.

When The Big Short first came onto the scene, I must admit I was sceptical. I was interested in the true story behind the film, but couldn’t get my head around one thing. The film is directed by Adam McKay – the man behind comedies like Anchorman, Step Brothers and Talladega Nights. Considering The Big Short takes place in the world of high-finance and follows the dark true story of the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s that cost thousands of people their jobs and homes, I worried that this was quickly going to turn into a disrespectful Will Ferrell farce. Luckily, this was not the case.

The Big Short is, however, very tongue-in-cheek. While the story is delivered with respect for those affected, the film does hold a mirror up to the world of finance and laughs at how preposterous it can be. Our heroes (or anti-heroes, depending on how you look at them) are dirty, obnoxious people but they’re delivered as comedy characters – especially Ryan Gosling’s Jared Vennett, the greedy self-interested salesman who narrates the majority of the film. Christian Bale is brilliant as the neurologist turned hedge-fund manager Michael Burry MD, while Steve Carell puts in another brilliant drama performance (after Foxcatcher) as the conflicted banker Mark Baum. Oh, and Brad Pitt turns up with a rather meh performance as Ben Rickert, a pessimistic trader.

I know what you’re (probably) thinking, because it’s absolutely what I thought before I watched it – “I know nothing about the world of high-finance, credit/housing bubbles, hedge funds, subprime loans, adjustable-rate mortgages, collateralized debt obligations and AAA ratings – how will I ever understand this?”. As The Beach Boys sang, don’t worry baby. The Big Short takes this complicated tale and makes it an accessible, understandable and entertaining romp. This is where some of this tongue-in-cheek humour comes into play. In one example, Gosling’s character lays out a rather complicated point and acknowledges that we, the viewer, probably have no idea what he’s talking about. He says “Here’s Margot Robbie in a bathtub to explain”, at which point we’re thrust into a fantasy world where Robbie, playing herself, sits naked in a bathtub sipping champagne and explaining mortgage bonds simply. “Got it? Good. Now f*ck off” she concludes. The brilliant fast-paced editing style of the film allows for subtle humour throughout, aided by Gosling’s often fourth-wall-breaking narration.

The Big Short isn’t quite as humour-heavy as The Wolf of Wall Street, but it certainly has a strong comedic undertone that is lacking in similar films such as Wall Street and Margin Call. That being said, it still allows room for plenty of drama where those affected by this story are concerned, and this makes it all the more powerful. You’ll come away from this film hating all bankers – if there are any bankers reading this, I’m sorry, I’m sure you’re not all bad – but the film certainly makes pantomime villains out of them. Boooo, hissss!

The Big Short is an excellent film, and far more deserving of the Best Picture prize this year than Spotlight. It takes a dark, complicated story and makes it into a fun, entertaining and understandable 2 hours full of brilliant performances and some of the best editing I’ve seen in years. But despite the often humorous approach, it doesn’t make light of the dark time it portrays and even indicts those responsible with a public “f*ck you”. It’s a powerful, funny and memorable little film that truly deserves the accolades it has walked away with (including Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars), but it’s a crime it didn’t win more.

The Big Short is one of the best films of the year. 5/5.


Sam Love

The Big Short at CeX

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