The Big Short is one of the year’s best films; funny, informative, entertaining, and infuriating, all with a great group of actors delivering excellent work.
Adam McKay has always been a vocal advocate for trying to expose the wrongs of the American financial system that almost destroyed the world’s economy in 2008, and with The Big Short I don’t know if he could do just that much better. Following the subjects of Michael Lewis’ book of the same name, the story looks at three groups of people that figured out that a) there was a housing bubble, b) that it was going to burst, and c) they were going to bet against it to fail. While these guys are primed to profit off the destruction of our financial institutions, they arrive at that point by uncovering just how messed up the system is and how greed is the downfall to capitalist systems. Everyone is kind of a bad guy in The Big Short, but we can get behind our “heroes” because they uncover villains far worse than they are.
I know this doesn’t sound like a funny film, but McKay somehow makes the material pretty hilarious most of the time. The leads are all funny on their own, who often do ridiculous things which we are assured were true, but most of the humor (and frustration) comes from the exposing of the stupidity that was in play in our financial system. I mean, I had my ear tuned to a lot of what gets doled out in this film, but it still feels like such a punch in the face; especially with the facts so expertly put together in McKay’s adaptation.
The cast is a true ensemble, nobody is the face of the film, and everyone is great across the board. Ryan Gosling is the standout for me, as he is in cocky asshole mode and it is irresistible to not get caught up in the show he is putting on. He is also one of the better narrators I’ve seen in a film in some time, with McKay giving him a lot of great riffs on the formula that make the device feel fresh. In fact, some of the best bits are when a few familiar faces pop in to explain some of the more complicated bits of jargon. It’s a narrative device that shouldn’t work, but somehow works perfectly. Christian Bale is also excellent in the picture, as most of the film’s drama is centered around him. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t get laughs though, as Bale’s aspergery take on Michael Burry gives us many great interactions with those around him. Steve Carell also shines as a bullshit detecting hedge fund manager who just doesn’t give an F about anything. His brazen obliviousness provides a few of the film’s best laughs and is perfectly accompanied by Gosling on a couple of occasions. The rest of the cast is great as well, it would be too much writing to get in to everyone, but I will give props to Carell’s team as my favorite batch of the other guys in the film.
The Big Short is a film that, really, everyone should see. Not only is it eye opening to those that might be in the dark of the unpunished crimes of our financial system, but it is also the year’s best comedy on top of it all. McKay entertains and makes you laugh as the world burns down to the ground, quite the accomplishment.