Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Big Short

Year: 2015
Director: Adam McKay
Cast: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, John Magaro, Finn Wittrock

Plot: Based on the true story of the financial meltdown in 2007-2008, seen through the eyes of a few men who saw it coming.

Review: One look at The Big Short and you might think the subject matter isn't very interesting to explore. But if you allow yourself some time to sit through this, there's a high chance you will be entertained and educated at the same time.

The latest film from Adam McKay focuses on the financial meltdown in the U.S. in 2007-2008. We start in 2005, where hedge fund manager Michael Burry crunches some numbers and predicts that the housing market is due to crash in a couple of years. So he uses his investors' money and bets against the banks in order to make a profit. The banks, all confident that the market is perfectly stable, willingly meet his request. This gets the attention of Jared Vennett, a banker who also sees an opportunity to get rich and makes a deal with another hedge fund manager, Mark Baum. At the same time, two young investors, Charlie Geller and Jamie Shipley get wind of this news and also attempt to profit from it, with some help from retired banker Ben Rickert.

McKay guides the audience through the eyes of these six men as they try to make sense of the impending collapse and gain from it. Knowing that the audience might be clueless with all the financial jargon being thrown around, McKay wisely inserts definitions wherever necessary and even ropes in celebrities like Selena Gomez, Margot Robbie and Anthony Bourdain to explain things. He also gets a few members of his cast to break the fourth wall and narrate the proceedings, especially Ryan Gosling who plays Vennett.

The cast all perform splendidly, with Christian Bale successfully presenting Burry as an eccentric man who listens to heavy metal, plays drums and dresses casually at the office, but a financial genius without a doubt. Though Bale is impressive, earning an Oscar nomination for his role, it is Steve Carell whom I thought should have been nominated instead as Mark Baum. Baum is a man with a strong moral compass, an angry man who feels the intense need to right every wrong in the world, and his reaction to the impending meltdown caused by dishonest banks is very genuine. It is his character the audience will connect with the most. Brad Pitt's role is minimal here as Rickert; it is the two young men played by John Magaro and Finn Wittrock who shine more. Geller and Shipley simply want to build their future and are damn excited to have stumbled upon something huge. Credit also goes to Melissa Leo and Marisa Tomei who make minor appearances here.

I will admit that this film isn't exactly for everyone, especially for people who don't like dialogue heavy stuff or jargon filled scripts. But I gotta give credit to McKay for making his film as accessible as possible, and dare I say it, entertaining too despite the potentially depressing subject matter.

If you're looking for something different to sink your teeth into, give this one a try. (8/10)

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