Monday, 8 February 2016

The Big Short (2015)

Wolves (of Wall Street) at the door

Director: Adam McKay
Running Time: 130 Minutes
Starring: Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carrell, Brad Pitt, John Magaro, Finn Wittrock, Hamish Linklater, Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong

Known for directing comedies starring Will Ferrell, Adam McKay ventures out of his comfort zone to adapt the true story of 2008's housing crisis. Changing genres can often be a risky venture for well established directors, which makes it satisfying how good the final product is.

Four outsiders with experience in the financial world, discover the economy is heading towards a collapse. When nobody else listens to them, they decide to bet against the global economy.

McKay brings a unique eye to the proceedings, allowing his picture to stand out and be all the more memorable. Passing media are utilized to showcase the passage of time, while images of ordinary people who lost everything regularly pops up, as a reminder of who truly lost out during the crisis. These give the feel of a documentary, intercut with dramatised events led by the stellar ensemble.

As Dr Michael Burry, Christian Bale puts in a terrific performance as the socially awkward hedge fund manager who first notices the potential crisis, and pre-emptively acts upon it, to the chagrin of his clients. Decked out in a suit and a dark wig which resembles Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, Ryan Gosling gives a pitch perfect portrayal of the bond salesman who's ultimately looking out for himself (and narrating the proceedings). But It's Steve Carrell who leaves the most lasting of impressions, as he acts as a mouthpiece for the viewers, delivering angry rants about the corrupt side of banking.



What's important to remember is that these characters we follow are not heroes. They're people who saw the opportunity to profit from the blindness and greed caused by careless bankers who did not care about the consequences, while everyday people lost so much as a result. Ben Rickert (a solid Brad Pitt) best gets this across, as his companions celebrate their potential windfall a bit too enthusiastically.

The technical terms aren't shied away from, called out for their use to confuse,  leaving people to think only bankers can do the job. This is playfully mentioned by the voiceover, using it as a segue to allow cameo appearances, for the purpose of breaking down some of the more confusing terms (while making a sly commentary at how advertisers make items more memorable by having celebrities talk about them). It doesn't all become crystal clear, as a good portion still manage to fly over people's heads, but the intent is there.

But when the reality sets in of how corrupt our economy got, and how little the consequences were cared about, you're left in shock and feeling angry. The final scene is downright frightening, as a reminder that those who fail history are doomed to repeat it.

If The Big Short is Adam McKay's attempt to prove himself as more than the "Will Ferrell comedy" guy, then consider it proven. This is an important film about a subject matter that deserves attention, delivered in a surreal manner that'll stick in your mind.

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