Running time: 2h 10min
Directed by Adam McKay
Written by Charles Randolph (screenplay by), Adam McKay (screenplay by), Michael Lewis (based upon the book by)
Starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling
When Wall Street, the Murican Mecca of Money, screws up big time and thus attracts more negative attention than usual, Hollywood is often ready to capitalize on the unfortunate events. While the movies about the suits, the banks, the hedge funds, and the coke-fueled parties are primarily entertainment, they also contain social commentary and are more adult-oriented than most of what the mainstream film industry has to offer; Oliver Stone’s aptly titled Wall Street (1987) and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) being some of the best examples. The Big Short does not pale in comparison to these two; it is both quality entertainment and a chilling look into the greed that ru(i)ns everything for short-sighted short-term profit.
The Big Short is a story about incompetence, avarice, and corruption which is then successfully exploited by those smart few who were able to see through all the bullshit. The film is based on Michael Lewis’ book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine that shows how the US housing bubble led to the crash of 2007/8. The movie is quite truthful to the real events, apparently, and that is commendable. I think it would take away from the efficacy of the film’s critique of how Wall Street operates if the film was dramatized too heavily.
Adam McKay is known as the director of such films as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) and Step Brothers (2008), neither of which I have seen, but know by reputation. His background in comedy is evident in The Big Short, but the film is an excellent drama as well. I would say that the film is a very funny drama instead of a comedy with some drama. There is plenty of fast-paced dialogue laden with financial terms, so one must pay attention to not fall off the ride; that is both a strength and a weakness for the film. Despite being fairly approachable and funny, it is not something to watch casually. To be fair, the film does its best to explain and repeat some key concepts to the viewer and does a pretty good job at it, but even so some people will not be able to follow what’s going on and why. I suppose that just has to be accepted with a topic like this; dumbing it down to make it more accessible than it already is would be detrimental. This also means the film has more rewatch value than most others.
The casting and performances are stellar; Christian Bale and Steve Carell especially stand out in a good way. One of the (arguable) weaknesses the film has is its large cast filled with white men of the financial world, which is a problem purely because it further complicates following the film. I do not think the cast should be diversified just because of this reason, however, as the film is based on real events and real people — it is just something that you have to deal with. The film does not pretend to be a completely unbiased and accurate depiction of the events, and it breaks the fourth wall quite often. It works quite well, I think.
On a good day The Big Short is a great film, and on a bad day it is merely good. As already stated, despite it being a fun movie, it is not something to watch casually. I like it, having seen it twice now, and might watch it again at some point, but I do not quite love it. While it simplifies and explains the financial terms and concepts to the laymen, it can be a challenge. In the opening paragraph I mentioned Wall Street and The Wolf of Wall Street; while I would rate all three of these films fairly similarly, I think The Big Short is by far the most challenging of them to watch, despite all the comedy.
Rating: 7.5 / 10
Times I had seen this film prior to this viewing: 1
Would I want to rewatch this film? Quite possibly at some point