Four denizens in the world of high-finance predict the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s, and decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight.
Director: Adam McKay
Starring: Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo, Tracy Letts, Hamish Linklater
Rated: R (pervasive language and some sexuality/nudity)
The Big Short
By Cole Schneider
Released only weeks apart, ”Chi-Raq” and “The Big Short” are perfect companion pieces. Both reflect on America’s recent tumult, serving as wake-up calls entering 2016. Both are angry about political hot-button issues—”Chi-Raq” about guns, “Big-Short” about economics. Both are ambitious and audacious, intending to indict the guilty. Most importantly, both are excellent.
With a messy structure following an ensemble too big to keep up with, and using jargon that nobody cares about, “Big-Short” somehow coalesces. The film recounts the time just before the housing collapse of the mid-2000s, following the handful of people that saw the disaster coming. If someone asked, “What’s the film about?”, no honest answer would satisfactorily reflect the quality of entertainment. That’s unfortunate because this is not a dry film. This is a grande film, with humor to burn and an abundance of style.
We watch a bunch of punks get rich while America pays the bill. The morals within “Big-Short” aren’t gray. This is all wrong and it knows it, but as the story unfolds we’re swept up in the story’s scope, the confusing nature of the enterprise, and the gut-busting comedy. When things begin to converge near the end (even while the humor remains strong) we simply lose the ability to laugh. How can one laugh while acknowledging such monstrous greed? To laugh is akin to being complicit in this evil.
As their auteurs recognize, both “Chi-Raq” and “Big-Short” are films so of-their-time that they may not be considered the masterpieces they really are when viewed decades later unless history repeats itself as “The Big Short” prophetically, soberingly exclaims will happen. The film’s loving spirit indicates a hope that future viewers indeed under-value this flawed masterpiece.
4.5 out of 5 Stars
The Big Short
By Matt Greene
Here’s something that won’t shock you: America’s big banks are all kinds of corrupt and full of fraudulent leadership. Here’s something that WILL shock you: the movie about that fact is immensely engaging and hilariously entertaining. Director McKay (Anchorman) has found a way to make the financial sector of American economics one of the most spastically fun films in theaters. Without glossing over the sickening and infuriating lack of justice in these too-big-to-fail organizations, The Big Short makes even its most openly educational moments funny and interesting through noble directorial experimentation and bombastic performances.
It’s 2005, and a small band of misfits and outsiders begin predicting what all of us now know to be true: the housing bubble collapse of 2008 and ultimately the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Who doesn’t love an underdog, whistleblower tale, especially when their takedown is targeted at corrupt old billionaires and annoying young dude-bros? However, much like this year’s superb Spotlight, we and our protagonists quickly realize that what we’re rooting for is more complex than a simple victory. Full of empathy for all involved, the all-star cast is given room to shine, as the story allows for equal parts ethos, pathos and downright hilarity.
Most wonderful is the way it plays with the conceit of the “true story”. Instead of trying to be too authentic or too Hollywood, it presents each in new and daring ways, never letting its audience get ahead of its story. Did I fully understand the details in the math? Not really. Did it matter? Not at all. Bold and energetic, The Big Short is a numbers movie, but its sum far exceeds its parts.
4 out of 5 Stars