The Big Short
Out Now On-Demand
If you can't beat the banks, make them pay.
Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt lead this true story about the four outsiders who predicted the global economic meltdown. No one believed them, so they came up with their own get-rich-quick scheme – betting against the American banks. Directed by Adam Mckay (Anchorman) and based on the non-fiction bestseller from Michael Lewis (who also wrote the book that was later adapted to the Oscar-nominated film Moneyball).
Best Adapted Screenplay at the 2016 Academy Awards and BAFTA Awards
Drama, True Story & Biography
Rating: M Offensive language and nudity
I guess you’ve just gotta laugh at the wholesale reckless looting of a nation, right? As evidenced by The Wolf of Wall Street, corporate excesses can make for hilarious cinema, so director Adam McKay (Anchorman, The Other Guys) seems a solid fit for this true tale of financial outsiders twigging to the imminent collapse of the US housing market. There’s a lot more going on with The Big Short though. The laughs may be plentiful, but this is as much chilling drama as financial farce, and the film’s single biggest triumph lies in making arcane financial mumbo jumbo understandable and watchable.
McKay employs all manner of devices in service of the film (and the limits of audience attention spans), from fourth-wall-breaking cameos to editing that unsettles by illogically cutting back and forth in out-of-sync conversations. He’s swinging for the fences in an effort to entertain, educate, and plain fucking terrify, and while the results may not be conventional, The Big Short successfully conveys appropriate levels of mania, panic and hilarity while maintaining a moral standpoint missing from other Wall Street tales.
The Big Short’s aided and abetted by superb performances, with Steve Carell in Foxcatcher form; Christian Bale going heavy metal method in learning how to play drums to Pantera’s By Demons Be Driven; and Ryan Gosling embodying salesman slimeball. Don’t let the subject matter put you off, this is a highly entertaining watch that’s full of belly laughs, but will nevertheless see you leaving the cinema feeling uncomfortable about what you’ve just watched. In doing so, McKay has pulled off a swindle of his own - a splendid, thought-provoking, filmmaking achievement.
Entertainment Weekly (USA)
Time Out New York
Rolling Stone (USA)
New York Times
Stuff.co.nz (Graeme Tuckett)
Great Cast - Great Film!
The Big Short manages to turn a difficult subject matter into a great film which anyone can follow. Margot Robbie in a bath explaining sub prime loans is brilliant. This film uses the fourth wall well as a storytelling technique, rare these days.
A great reminder and explanation of what caused the GFC and will open your eyes.
A must see this year
A fresh and well-rounded movie with so much to like, let down only by a couple of over the top characters with drippingly ironic character flaws (the rating agency clerk with vision problems and the regulator eager to hop into bed with the banks). Fortunately they fit with the comic, light hearted take on the movie's subject matter. Well worth watching
Refreshing and quick-witted!
Very clever and full of comedic surprises. Does a good job of sharing with the audience the inner workings of the banking world whilst keeping things light enough for it to not be all a complete mood kill. I definitely want to re watch it again as there is a lot to take in but that's part of it's intellectual prowess. Fascinating look at human nature and some superb performances by Steve Carrell and Christian Bale.
If you enjoy feeling angry...
...then have these guys got a deal for you.
The Big Short does a great job of explaining the apparently inexplicable, tackling the world of sub-prime mortgages and collateralized debt obligations head-on without bothering to apologise if it makes you feel stupid in the process. Explaining this stuff without talking down to your audience is a tricky needle to thread, but director Adam McKay deftly manages it by making ruthless trader Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) into our narrator and master-of-ceremonies. Fourth-wall breaking cutaways to simplified lectures given by eye-catching celebrities (including Margot Robbie in a bubble-bath) have the dual advantage of breaking down the dynamics in an easily digestible way while also signalling just what a condescending creep Vennett is. It’s skirting a fine line, but McKay’s complete confidence in his gambit is infectious, which was enough to carry me through. Margot Robbie in a bubble-bath obviously helped too.
And, in the end, all of this bumf about credit default swaps, ISDA’s and bespoke opportunity tranches is essential to the film’s central, and devastating, thesis – that these are simple ideas that have been dressed up in complicated jargon in order to protect the world’s financial mandarins from being second-guessed by the general public. No matter how knotty it may all seem, the fact that major chunks of these processes can be explained to us in less than a minute by Margot Robbie in a bubble-bath means that… means that… Ahhh, nope… lost it…
The Big Short isn’t always as sure-footed as it should be. The effectiveness of the visual metaphors varies - the unseen monster lurking beneath Florida’s suburban housing developments is nicely evoked by the alligator in the swimming pool, but the huge dark glasses worn by rating agency cog Melissa Leo are a little on-the-nose (figuratively speaking)… Actually, the weakest parts are probably those that take their eye off the financial flapdoodle in order to try to deepen the characters. There’s a subplot about the relationship between Mark Baum (Steve Carrell) and his brother that does nothing but eat up time – none of these scenes tell us anything that Carrell’s performance isn’t already doing, and have the doubly unfortunate side-effect of putting Marisa Tomei in a needless role that the film could lose in a heartbeat.
Ultimately, though, the characterisations aren’t what’s really important here. This isn’t a film about individuals but about people as a mass organism, one with a seemingly inexhaustible capacity for greed, cruelty, self-interest and finally, possibly most horrific of all, forgetfulness.
You’ll be engaged and enraged in equal measure.
Definitely worth the seeing. Informative, though would have been more so if the greed and lack of ethics drivers had been put in the context of government policies of the times. The story it did tell was well told.
Bank Culture for Dummies
Interesting characters populate this film which is set up as an instructional docudrama but never quite manages to simplify the subject enough for complete novices. It is definitely entertaining but would bore the pants off anyone who doesn't care about how big banking works. In simple terms they make squillions while Joe Public pays the price. We all know it. The mortgage market is run like a Ponzi scheme. Is anyone really surprised?
Enjoy and learn something
Mostly highly watchable but times when the subject matter doesn't make it entirely easy to follow.
An accessible look at the GFC
Few films dealing with the GFC are this fun. It's interesting: the 'heroes' of the film were betting against the 'bad guys' (big banks), but they also became very rich because of it, while people the world over lost jobs & houses and economies collapsed. The film does acknowledge this, albiet briefly - these guys know that they too are part of a corrupt system. The intricacies of the GFC - particularly it's underlying causes - are potentially brain-melting, but the film's zippy back and forth pace has a lightness of touch and it's amusing use of celebrity cameos to explain complex financial jargon and fourth wall-breaking commentary is inspired. It's definitely not a subtle film - but one could argue that the message could have easily been overshadowed by the stellar cast (you could cynically call this 'cool rich dudes of Hollywood make a film about the GFC'). Ultimately, it's an important story to tell - why not tell it with a little flair and slice it up for us everyday folk to understand? I, for one, appreciated it.
The Big Short
Disappointing, this could've been so much better. The Big Short definitely isn't one of the best pictures of the year. I couldn't get into it, I didn't understand any of the banking stuff. Great cast, Steve Carell and Christian Bale are fantastic. Ryan Gosling was wasted, he's mostly there just to explain things to the audience and narrate the story.
I don't like the crappy documentary style of cinematography and directing. There are some funny moments and the ending did affect me. I'm just not smart enough for this movie. Grade: B-
Economics & Eccentrics
I loved the film, it was interesting to be able to understand in greater detail what happened to cause the pickle that a lot of economies around the world are in at the moment.
It was great to see the satire, poking fun at various aspects of capitalism and western society. Overall it was a much funnier film that I expected it to be, but still very sobering to know the impact on average people and to know that not a lot has changed.
Are banks still greedy? Yes. Corrupt? Largely. Is the system still broken? Without a doubt.