The Big Short brings humor to a depressing story
By Thomas Simpson
The financial crisis of 2007-2008 created shockwaves that can still be felt today. Considered by experts to be the worst banking crisis ever recorded, it was documented in Michael Lewis’s non-fiction book The Big Short: Inside The Doomsday Machine. It doesn’t sound like a tale full of laughs, yet it was Adam McKay (known for Anchorman and Eastbound and Down) that was tasked with bringing this harrowing tale to the big screen for the five time Oscar nominated The Big Short. McKay has managed to inject a black humor into the film that keeps you serene as we hurtle towards the inevitable. A perfect metaphor.
Ryan Gosling is our fourth wall bothering narrator, Jared Vennett. A Wall Street trader who hears of hedge fund manager Micael Burry’s (Christian Bale) predictions that the housing market is about to collapse. After a fateful wrong number gets him in touch with hedge fund manager Mark Baum (Steve Carell), Vennett puts a plan in motion to capitalize on the impending disaster.
The cast is simply brilliant with Carell and Bale excelling in their roles. Carell proves once against the extent of his range with another excellent and serious performance while Bale gives his peers cause for worry in the Best Supporting Actor category at this year’s Oscars. He’s eccentric and socially awkward while portraying an honesty that keeps him morally transparent despite the complex nature of the plot.
If you’re concerned that all the banking talk may leave you confused, don’t be. McKay and co-writer Charles Randolph do their best to explain the complex financial terms in unique ways. If Gosling’s Vennett isn’t able to dumb it down enough he’ll happily cut to Margot Robbie in a bubble bath or Selena Gomez at the blackjack table. It’s a very self aware film that employs madcap comedy while keeping the restraints on. There is a more serious message here and not one that will leave you exiting the cinema on a high.
There may be plenty of laughs to be had, however recent history reminds us how this one will end. It’s bleak and depressing but ultimately important. The soul crushing climax is a stark warning that history can and does often repeat itself. The Big Short may leave you feeling helpless with a worry that the end is nigh but it’s a magnificent film with a stellar cast that bring their A game.
Thomas Simpson is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy41.