If you’re not already feeling crappy enough about the state of the world economy, the divide between the upper class and everyone else, or the political and financial power held by the 1%, you should probably see The Big Short. It will press your nose up against the mess and stomp on the back of your head just to make sure you feel it.
The Big Short is a film based off of the 2010 bestselling book by Michael Lewis that describes the build-up and subsequent collapse of the housing bubble of 2007, causing the world’s markets to suffer the financial crisis it’s still in today.
Starring Christian Bale as Michael Burry, a hedge fund manager who is one of the first to take notice of the instability of the US housing market. After his discovery, he bets against it, attracting ridicule from the banks he deals with and anger from his colleagues and clients. From there, news of his deals spread to other managers (hedge fund manager Mark Baum played by Steve Carell), traders (Jared Vennett played by Ryan Gosling) and investors (Charlie Geller and Jamie Shipley played by John Magaro and Finn Wittrock respectively). Geller and Shipley enlist the help of retired banker Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) to get them involved in the still-unknown deals.
As you can tell from that last paragraph, there’s a lot of complicated stuff in there if you’re not already familiar with how the financial world works. I’m definitely not. But The Big Short works hard to be entertaining, providing a narrative that centres mostly around Baum (Carell), while taking time out to actually explain what is going on using attractive or well-known celebrities to keep the audience engaged. (Watch for a cameo by Selena Gomez whose explanation involving blackjack is actually very useful.)
That’s how complicated the subject matter is. Director Adam McKay willingly chops the film up by inserting explanations to make it -fingers crossed- easier to understand.
The main issue with a film like this is how hard it can be to take it at face value when it involves a topic that is likely to cause major disagreement. Even the most well-researched documentaries have people laying claim to research that opposes the information presented, so when a film comes out of Hollywood (not exactly known as the epitome of accuracy) starring big-named actors by a major production company (if Brad Pitt’s Plan B Entertainment counts as a major production company) whose job it is to make money by providing entertainment, there’s a fine line between sharing facts and embellishing for the purposes of connecting with an audience – in this case, by giving them something to be collectively riled up about. In that sense, it’s possible that a film such as this could lead to even more confusion and more misunderstanding about the lead-up and after-affects of the financial crisis and that could be ammunition for the very people who came out of it unscathed.
But I digress. Christian Bale earns the spotlight with his role while Steve Carell provides the film’s most epic moment. Boom.
The Big Short should be seen – not to be entertained, but because we aren’t clearly feeling enough. Whether the information presented is 100% accurate or not, there’s enough justification in it that should light a fire under the theatre seats and make all of us walk away feeling something. Anything. Because sometimes it’s not a bad thing to be completely and utterly pissed off.