‘The Big Short’ Review: Adam McKay Simplifies Wall Street Numbers

The Big Short: 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.

Longtime comedy writer/director Adam McKay makes his real-life drama debut with The Big Short. The story is based of the same-titled novel written by Michael Lewis, and focuses on the infamous housing market crash in 2008.

McKay handles this story with style and simplicity. Explaining why the housing market crashed to the public is no easy task, but McKay manages to do so by having his actors break the fourth wall. Ryan Gosling’s character opens the film with a narration and continues to explain his character’s thinking and other big events during that period throughout the film. McKay also made the brilliant decision of including celebrity cameos to use analogies to explain a certain financial terms and strategies. It really helped me understand and follow along with the story. As I stated above, McKay is a veteran of comedy, and infuses the script with sarcasm from its main four players. Gosling and Steve Carrell use their natural comedic timing to deliver some of the best lines and facial expressions in the film, some of which you’ll see in the trailer.

I mentioned earlier how McKay gives this tragic story some style, and it comes from the direction. McKay is out to make those banks and its greedy corporate employees look like idiots and as*holes. Meanwhile, he makes Gosling and Christian Bale’s character too smart and collected, while people around them are unfolding and panicking. Both characters are able to see what’s happening around them, and are making financial moves that has everyone but them pulling their hair out. It got to a point where I was having fun watching them get rich as the housing markets got worse and worse. And then, McKay pulls a fast one and turned my entertainment into a reality check.

There’s a moment where Brad Pitt’s character confronts his two partners who are really excited over making huge profits, and tells them as they make money, more and more people are losing their homes. It was an effective way for McKay to remind everyone that these four rockstars making profits off the bank’s stupidity was indirectly caused by people getting screwed over with false promises. Its something worth watching.

The lead actors in The Big Short all give great performances. Ryan Gosling is having the most fun with his role, and commands every scene he’s in with his energy and charisma. Steve Carrell continues to display great dramatic timing, with subtle humor. His character is constantly stressing and on the move, and that’s no easy role to excel in. Christian Bale is also great, as a hedge fund manager who isolates himself from his company. I’m still not convinced his performances deserves a Best Supporting Actor nomination, but that’s just an opinion. Brad Pitt has a small but very impactful role, and shows that he can play off any actor with ease. I just hoped to see his character have a little more screen time and maybe a little more backstory. The two characters he works with (played by John Magaro and Finn Wittrock) really look up to him, and so they too would’ve benefited since they follow his lead so much.

The Big Short is definitely a movie worth watching, if not for its true story and informative dialogue. Its carried by McKay’s direction and great performances from its four leads. You might find yourself having a good time seeing these people make money off the greedy, but will also appreciate the tragedy and reality that comes with it.

The Big Short gets a 9 out of 10

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