Films about finance and banks and the credit collapse are often risky because they have the tendency to get fairly boring, fairly quickly. Director Adam McKay's latest project, The Big Short, aims to tell the true story of the housing and credit collapse in the mid-2000's. Here's my review of the film.

Based on the non-fiction book by Michael Lewis, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, the author of other similar great works such as Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game and The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, The Big Short tells the true story of three separate - but interlinked - stories about four great, unusual minds in the world of finance that all predicted the huge financial and housing collapse in the mid-200's and decide to take advantage of this and go against the banks and cash in on their failings. Socially reclusive Scion Capital hedge fund manager, Michael Burry (Christian Bale), who walked around barefoot and in shorts playing the drums on his legs, suffering from Asperger's Syndrome, was good at crunching numbers and the first to predict the bubble burst and bet against the housing markets. Deutsche Bank's Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) was next to catch on to this, bringing FrontPoint Partners' Mark Baum (Steve Carrell) into the picture - an angry idealist fed up with the corruption in the financial industry. This, in turn, led to Charlie Gellar (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) catching whiff of what was going on and bringing on capital market expert Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) to help them in making some money out of the inevitable collapse.
Finance is a very delicate topic when it comes to its portrayal in films, just because of the complexity and the intensity of industry that weighs down these pictures usually causing them to head towards being too complicated and boring for most audiences. Telling an accurate, interesting financial story, whilst still keeping it entertaining and accessible, is an unenviable task for any filmmaker and very few manage to do it successfully. However, Adam McKay has done just that, with his latest picture. He has managed to tell one of the most infamous, complex stories of the decade with such ease and such energy, to make a film that is both accurate and wildly entertaining. There is a lot of jargon and number crunching and financial details and information thrown around throughout The Big Short but McKay manages to dumb it down, through the use of constant fourth-wall breaking and occasional celebrity cameos - from the likes of Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez, amongst others - to explain some of the stuff going on. It's a very unique approach but is effective in explaining things and making the film more accessible for most casual moviegoers. Coming from a comedy background (responsible for some genre classics such as Step Brothers and Anchorman), McKay also injects humour into the proceedings too and this is a surprisingly very funny film at times. However, the humour never gets too much or never gets too in your face and McKay keeps his focus on the drama and never loses sight of the true significance of the story.

There isn't just good work from McKay however, because the acting in The Big Short is phenomenal. This film boasts one of the best cast of the year and everyone brings their A-game, giving an asbolutely stellar performance. Ryan Gosling is cool and calculated as the slick Vennett, acting as our narrator and guide for this story, bringing a lot of charm and wit to the role. Brad Pitt is also great in this. He has very little screentime but steals every scene he is in when he does appears in. John Magaro, Finn Wittrock, Rafe Spall and Jeremy Strong all give some tremendous support too and bring a lot to the proceedings. However, it's Steve Carrell and Christian Bale that are the standouts. Whilst all the performances are terrific, this pair, arguably, have the biggest roles in the story and they crush it. Carrell shows that Foxcatcher wasn't a one-off and he knows how to give a dramatic performance, albeit if a very angry one - his character has a lot of rage cooped up inside of him and the actor's execution is superb. Bale is utterly remarkable as Michael Burry. His performance is subtle but he really portrays this reclusive entrepreneur exceptionally well. You really invest into these characters and connect to them and are compelled by their stories and it's a credit to how marvellously McKay has realised them but also how gloriously the actors have realised them too - we believe in everything going on and not for a second do we ever see these actors, but always just these driven financial denizens.

In the end, The Big Short is a triumph. Adam McKay has taken one of the world's most infamous financial events and turned it into a great film. The industry can be very convoluted and complicated but the film does a really god job of dumbing it down and making it as accessible and understandable for all audiences as possible. However, sometimes even this notion can't help the fact that finance is just too huge to digest for the moral man and, despite McKay's best efforts (which, largely, work), it is still a lot to take in and if you miss out on some details, things can get a little weighty. This can be a fairly confusing films at times, especially since we're juggling with so many characters and arcs. It's not the easiest film to process and can perhaps take a while to really get into. However, once it clicks, this is a very entertaining film. The Big Short is accurate, it's engrossing and very interesting, it is witty and enjoyable and entertaining and Adam McKay's direction and storytelling is stunning. The cinematography is also great, as is the acting. Most of all though, this is a very sublime picture and it's an important one. The story of the financial crisis and bubble collapse is riveting and this film tells it so brilliantly, making it an important film for this generation - showing the corruption behind something we all thought to be secure.

The Big Short an essential film. The outrage, the whole issue of morality and justice and the infuriation of the fraudulent system are thrown into the mix here to make an emotionally and mentally conflicting and challenging cinematic experience yet one that is extremely rewarding and one that will certainly leave you shaken and have you thinking for weeks on end afterwards. There's a quote that appears on screen about halfway through the film and, to an extent, it summarises the whole issue here and the story McKay is trying to tell: "Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry."

VERDICT:
Massively compelling and delightfully entertaining, The Big Short is a fascinating, witty and essential film. Adam McKay has done the impossible: make an important, great film all about the financial collapse.


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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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