The World Economy. Over the years it has dipped in and out of stability and complete collapse and it is a subject that no one really likes to cover too much, in case it collapses again. The 2008 financial crisis was one of the worst in history and now, the story of how it came to be and those who saw it coming has been adapted into what is a truly astonishing piece of filmmaking. The Big Short takes one of the most complicated and controversial subjects, and makes it more appetizing to people.
The story of The Big Short follows the groundings to the explosion of the Financial crisis over the course of 3 years and over that time, a group of outsiders in the financial world, saw what was going to happen. We follow Michael Burry (Christian Bale), Mark Baum (Steve Carell), Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) and Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) who discovered that the housing market is propped up by high risk subprime loans and is running the risk of collapse. Dismissed by the Wall Street Fat cats, they decide to bet against the American economy with the aim of profiting massively as the housing market crumbles beneath them. I wouldn’t expect this to become a comedy story, and somehow, Adam McKay has done it. It is very funny, but only in certain areas, which may defeat its purpose, but I don’t care. The drama, the tension, the complicated economics, I loved every second of the dialogue and story, start to finish.
Adam McKay makes the audience feel smarter for a good reason, so they know what has happened. He brings his very fast and surprisingly powerful direction to a serious film and even gives us dictionary definitions on screen about Wall Street terms and celebrities explaining complicated economics; it displays banking in Layman’s terms. This is also helped by the fantastic acting from the 4 principle cast members. Christian Bale gives another one of his charismatic and weird performances and Steve Carell shows yet again that he can do serious dramatic acting, another role to add to his expanding pocket. The Big Short is a good blend of comedy and drama, often unbalanced throughout yes, but the payoff is worth it. My only harsh criticism about this is that there is an intense build up with a big bang, but is quite damp at the end as if not all the explosives were used up.
One of the best ways to describe this film in one word, is “bursting”. And the sounds that you hear in this film perfectly sum this up. New York traffic, people on phones swearing and cussing to everyone, the trading floors and sounds of stupid and drunk gamblers losing all of their money. It might seem a bit jam packed, but if this film has to show people the world of economics and it really has to, then all of the aspects of a bankers’ life and the places they go have to be explored. Indeed, the whole film’s pace and style might seem a bit disorientating, but that just illustrates the pace of the financial world; one sale after another in quick succession.
The soundtrack though is less all over the place. In fact, there isn’t much music at all. It mainly consists of licensed songs for use in particular moments in the film and the only original music that I could find was near the beginning and the end. The music doesn’t contribute much in this film and that is a bit annoying, but who cares. The film is in a modern world with modern songs to remind us that times change and that money and the economic system will do so as well. This film is an advocate for the use of licensed songs in place of an original soundtrack, much like the work of Quentin Tarantino, only with less violence and less use of the use of the “N” word.
For recreating the failed offices of deceased banks and firms, The Big Short production design has done a very good job. Early examples of windows and apple macs can be seen with lots of trading information on them, the phones and television screens are early 2005 and have all been recreated from scratch. But like all of Adam McKay’s films, there is a grand mixture of set pieces and on location sets as well, so there is no surprise that he did a lot of filming at Vegas, New York and offices in New Orleans to substitute for offices in New York.
But, this is overshadowed completely by the cinematography and editing. Watching this film, is a bit like watching a documentary or reality TV show. The camera often zooms in and out going out of focus to put the audience in the room and often moves left and right quite quickly when there is more than one person in the room to show a more normal hand held camera movement. Even the way the scenes are cut and the camera angles show the positions of power and influence in the scene. And then there is the editing. It combines an awful lot of archive footage and stills to illustrate the time period between events, the things that are going on around the characters and also the backstories of even the most insignificant characters and extras in the story. The characters will also talk to the audience at random points to show the true outcome of the story or information about themselves.
Even the looks of the characters can display the same sort of information. You have the Fat cats in high end tailored suits, the middle men in smart attire consisting of just a shirt and trousers and then you have the retired bankers in ordinary looking and somewhat tattered looking clothing to show the years of experience and financial drudgery on their life.
Adam McKay has definitely strayed from his roots of Sit-Coms to show people the information they know but don’t want to talk about, and I love every second of it. If you are an economist, banker or have any job in the lines of finances, then this will interest you and if you’re a film buff, this will excite you.
I give this film a 9/10.