Finance is never a particularly attractive topic to make a film about. Even when movies about the world of finance get made they try to focus more towards the characters and keep the details about the financial world to a bare minimum. Wall Street, American Psycho and The Wolf of Wall Street are all prime examples of this. The only good film I can think of that actually focuses primarily towards finance is J.C Chandor’s Margin Call, but is the only exception.
The Big Short is a film that tries to do a bit of both. It tries to tell a very complex story about the 2008 financial crisis which revolves mostly around the confusing world of finance but emphasis on character and plot is never given the backseat.
Based on the novel by Michael Lewis of the same name, The Big Short basically follows the story of four denizens of the world of high-finance who predict the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s, and decide to bet against the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight.
The notion that Adam McKay, the director of comedies like Anchorman and Talladega Nights was writing and directing a film that dealt with such a complex subject-matter bothered me at first because I was skeptical if McKay could even pull it off. But thankfully, he does and it’s through McKay’s sharply funny screenplay and his exceedingly unconventional filmmaking techniques that The Big Short stays engaging throughout.
McKay’s background in comedy proves to be invaluable here and he’s able to induce so much great comedy into the script and dialogue which makes a film about an otherwise downbeat subject, increasingly entertaining.
The unorthodox camera movements and even unorthodox editing choices only add to this. To make the complex financial stuff accessible to the average viewer McKay has Ryan Gosling’s character Jarred Vennet guide us through the movie as the narrator as well as people like Selena Gomez, Margot Robbie and Anthony Bourdain making cameos as themselves and constantly breaking the fourth wall to explain exactly what is going on.
The performances all hit the mark which is great because I doubt many other actors could done the same job with such an intricately scripted screenplay, let alone make it this compelling. Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt, all give great performances, but I think Bale and Carell manage to stand out the most.
Bale gives possibly the funniest performance of his career as hedge fund Michael Burry, while Carell gives by far his angriest as Mike Baum, another hedge fund manager.
But while The Big Short is pretty funny it has this really powerful underlying theme of tragedy which gives the film reason and a brings a lot of gravity to the story as well. The end result is a smart, enthralling and riveting tale of greed and power and one of the best films of 2015.