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The Big Short – Review


Release Date: 23 December 2015 [USA]
Director: Adam McKay
Writer: Charles Randolph - Adam McKay [Screenplay]
Cast: Christian Bale - Steve Carell - Ryan Gosling - Brad Bitt -



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Posted January 28, 2016 by

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The Big Short Review:

Hedge fund manager Michael Burry does something the Wall Street community thinks is insane; he bets against the American housing market. Through happenstance, several other members of the financial community catch wind of Burry and his antics. They jump on the bandwagon and begin digging for themselves, leading them to discover that the housing market is about to implode. Several more bets are placed.

Turns out, Director Adam McKay has got dramatic chops. The comedy emerges through character quirks in a serious line of work rather than some omnipresent silliness present in his other movies. What demands praise here is McKay’s balancing of tone. The first act of The Big Short is firmly in comedy territory but by the middle act the comedy and drama are on equal footing. By the movie’ final act, the comedy is dead and the doom is real. All the changes feel gradual, nothing is forced. The Big Short’s characters, organised into three separate storylines, show the different approaches to the coming disaster.

Christian Bale plays Dr. Michael Burry, an incredibly awkward hedge fund manager and numbers prodigy incapable of telling a lie. He seems the most altruistic of the schemers, initiating this plan because he genuinely believes his investors will profit.

Then there is Charlie, Jamie and Ben (played by John Magaro, Finn Wittrock and a quite unremarkable Brad Pitt, respectively.) They are the most opportunistic of the schemers. Charlie and Jamie are the harder characters to sympathise with. Sure, they’re underdogs but they have the same lack of the respect as the very crooks they’re betting against. A silly dance, interrupted by their stoic mentor Ben, highlights their ignorance.

Carell, like his character, hijacks his scenes. He is terrific as Mark Baum, another hedge fund manager who spends the entire movie being angry and is addicted to finding and calling bullshit. Some deep trauma drives Mark’s workaholism and Carell conveys this brilliantly. Gosling plays second fiddle to Carell but also dabbles in narrating the movie. As disgustingly slippery as your stereotypical Wall Street stockbroker but suffers from none of the hubris. A rogue with his ear to the ground.

The writing is wickedly self-aware. Margot Robbie in a bubble-bath warns of what makes a bad mortgage. Anthony Bourdain compares collateralised bad loans to a fish stew. The subject matter is impenetrable to most and McKay isn’t afraid to break the fourth wall so that you can follow. It’s fun and educational! Baum and Burry are brilliantly rounded characters also. Baum at first is eager to profit at the expense of the evil banks but when the scale of the rot is revealed, the idea of touching any money disgusts him. Burry quietly captures the thinking of the many men who landed the economy in this state, wondering aloud if anyone ever knows how they are wrong in what they do. It seems nobody thought they were doing anything wrong.

The Big Short at first takes you as a naïve tourist through its runtime and leaves you as a horrified rubbernecker by one hell of a crash. Impeccable writing and direction backed up by great lead performances, this movie’s foundations are much more stable than the market it depicts.


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Michael Keyes
Silences Band
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