ReelBob: ‘The Big Short’
By Bob Bloom
Righteous indignation is the spark that fuels “The Big Short,” a dramedy that looks at the financial collapse that created the Great Recession in 2008.
Director Adam McKay uses Michael Lewis’ best-seller to explain what led to the crisis and how a few visionary individuals came out ahead because they foresaw the catastrophe in the making.
McKay strikes a tightrope-like balance that keeps you from resenting the main protagonists — portrayed by Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt — who actually profit from the stupidity, greed and chicanery of the financial institutions and insurance companies that precipitated the disaster.
“The Big Short” is appealing because it does not condescend to its audience. It actually treats the viewers as thinking adults who are capable of understanding events as they unfold.
To make sure, though, McKay uses a series of cameo “guest stars” to explain some of the more complex intricacies of Wall Street and the stock and housing markets.
This breaking of the fourth wall, used judiciously, helps get you involved in more of the proceedings, so you appreciate the risky transactions the main characters undertake.
The film is rife with anger and indignation, but it is leveled with humor and barbed wit. At the same time, it does not sugarcoat the magnitude or the tragic consequences in the aftermath of the meltdown.
The ensemble cast works well, with Bale and Carell rising above the others. Bale’s Michael Burry continually scrutinizes numbers and trends, sees a flaw and predicts the collapse about three years before it occurs.
Carell’s Mark Baum continually rants and fumes about the outrageous dealings of the financial world and happily turns their own avarice against them.
Pitt’s Ben Rickert is the film’s conscience. He helps a couple of young investors make a big score, when they also foresee disaster.
When they begin gloating and dancing after making a giant killing, he admonishes them. He reminds them that people will lose their jobs and homes because of the corruption of the institutions that are supposed to be helping and protecting ordinary, everyday Americans.
What “The Big Short” does so masterfully is take what most people would consider a boring subject and turn it into a lively, three-ring circus of wheeling and dealing. The movie will make you laugh and think, as well as give rise to an indignation and distrust toward our investing establishment.
“The Big Short” may make you contemplate that the safest place for your money will be under your mattress.
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.
THE BIG SHORT
3½ stars out of 4
(R), sexual situations, nudity, language