Director: Adam McKay
Cast: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Melissa Leo, Hamish Linklater, John Magaro, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong, Marisa Tomei, Finn Wittrock
Runtime: 2 hrs 11 mins
Rating: NC16 (Coarse Language and Some Nudity)
Released By: UIP
Official Website: http://www.thebigshortmovie.com
Opening Day: 21 January 2016
Synopsis: When four outsiders saw what the big banks, media and government refused to, the global collapse of the economy, they had an idea: The Big Short. Their bold investment leads them into the dark underbelly of modern banking where they must question everyone and everything. Based on the true story and best-selling book by Michael Lewis.
Truth be told, this reviewer wouldn’t have been interested in this biographical comedy drama if not for the big names attached to it. Putting the faces of Christian Bale (Exodus: Gods and Kings, American Hustle), Steve Carell (Foxcatcher, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World), Ryan Gosling (Only God Forgives, Gangster Squad) and Brad Pitt (Fury, 12 Years a Slave) sure helps with catching eyeballs.
Then there is the unlikely choice of having Adam McKay as the director of this 131 minute movie. Having served as head writer for the popular sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live for two seasons, and directed movies like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006) and Step Brothers (2008), one wouldn’t have expected the director producer writer actor to take on this Wall Street drama about the financial crises of 2007 to 2008, which was brought on by the buildup of the housing market and credit bubble.
Of course, it doesn’t help that this writer wasn’t a finance or economics student – hence the lack of knowledge in the seemingly serious and complicated subject matter.
The story focuses on four characters and how they are involved in the world of high finance. Through a series of incidents, we see them predict the credit and housing bubble collapse, and how the big banks’ greed and lack of foresight led to what is considered the worst financial crises since the Great Depression of the 1930s. As a result, there were countless evictions, foreclosures and prolonged unemployment. The decline in consumer wealth was estimated at trillions of US dollars.
Can you imagine anyone bringing such events to the screen, and hoping to gain interest from someone as uninformed as this columnist? And more importantly, having it categorised as a comedy? Trust McKay to do the job., and having the movie clinch five Oscar nominations (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing) and many other award nominations as well.
Like the topic, there are lots of jargon and financial processes which are difficult to understand. We believe that most viewers will still be clueless for most parts of the movie – that is probably similar to how the finance sector works. If you aren’t already a victim yourself, you have probably heard how your friends have been thrown jargons and terminologies on investments and stocks, only to feel lost and confused over what the entire situation is about. But that doesn’t stop humans from wanting more – hence the eventual unfortunate series of events.
The screenplay by McKay (Ant Man, The Campaign) and Charles Randolph (Love & Other Drugs, The Interpreter) ensures that the film moves at an energetic pace so that the layperson will not be bored or lost in the technicalities of the finance world. You are also pleasantly surprised by the inclusions of Anthony Bourdain, Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez in sequences where they speak to you directly, explaining certain jargons used in the movie. Such approaches definitely make viewers sit up and watch – even if the explanations are still cloudy, you’d give the filmmakers points for thinking of this refreshing way of telling the story.
The cast fares well under McKay’s direction, and a supporting cast including Melissa Leo, Harmish Linklater, John Magaro, Rake Spall, Jeremy Strong, Marisa Tomei and Finn Wittrock will have you seeing the perspectives of each of their characters, and how they viewed the downfall of the financial system.
(The great ensemble cast makes this movie about the global financial crisis unexpectedly enjoyable and fun to watch)
Review by John Li