If there's any proof of the divide between the wealthy and... well, everybody else, it's last decade's collapse of the American housing market, which, like a precariously-stacked Jenga tower, led to a disastrous recession. Its effect was felt not just in the U.S. but around the world, with implications still present to this day. Yet despite the impact on you, me and practically every other person on this planet, we know very little about the events which led up to this devastating downfall - it's complicated and boring financial jargon, right? Well, no longer. 'The Big Short' shines a blinding spotlight on the true story which dates back half a century, in a film that will leave you not only entertained but very, very angry.
Michael Burry (Christian Bale) is an eccentric mathematician who has been employed by a hedge fund. His out-of-the-box research leads him to realise the very foundation of American's financial system - mortgage bonds - aren't worth the paper they're printed on. Foreseeing an imminent collapse, he does something which both his boss and the banks think is insane - buy millions in insurance against the mortgage bonds. By mere accident, a group of financial crusaders led by Mark Baum (Steve Carell) catch wind of his plan, and decide to join him in the ultimate fuck you to the American banks.
I'll concede it is a very complex premise - and the summary above really only skims the surface of the content covered in 'The Big Short'. However, it's the manner in which writer Charles Randolph and writer/director Adam McKay adeptly handle the material that makes this so accessible to an average audience. There's a slew of visual devices used to help us understand this deliberately detailed system - whether it be Margot Robbie in a bathtub or Ryan Gosling's Jenga tower to represent the precarious mortgage bonds, your hand is held the whole way through the film by the characters themselves. It's humorous too - McKay and the cast have balanced a lightness with the murky content to ensure you stick with it until the very end.
The performances here are nothing short of spectacular. The closest to a lead character is Carell's Mark Baum, in one of the best roles we've seen him in for a long time. He relishes the extreme temperament of Baum and his disgust towards the big banks. Backed up by another rivetingly eccentric performance by Christian Bale, and a small yet pivotal role from Brad Pitt, there really is no weak link in this casting.
The manner in which writer Charles Randolph and writer/director Adam McKay adeptly handle the material makes this so accessible to an average audience.
Films like 'The Big Short' put into perspective the way we perceive wrongdoings in our society. We're quick to condemn murderers, but what about those who ruin millions of people's lives? In all, one person was actually deemed guilty during America's financial crisis, despite blatant mishandlings and transgressions by dozens and dozens more, and it's only now the truth of the events is being made publicly accessible through films like this. This is a perfect companion piece to '99 Homes', which delves into the issue on an extremely personal, intimate level. 'The Big Short' examines the downfall on a wider scale, uncovers the deliberate deception undertaken by banks, and investigates the corruption rife on Wall Street. Investing in high-risk stocks for a sizeable profit is one thing; blatantly gambling with people's pensions and savings for personal gain is just irresponsible and malicious. This film aims to uncover that in as honest a manner as possible, whilst teaching you a thing or two and still ensuring you're entertained - and boy, does it ever succeed.