By Adam Ray Palmer
Cineroom’s review today comes courtesy of Adam McKay’s comedic re-telling of an adaptation based on true events (long-winded I know), The Big Short.
This film serves as a departure for comedy director McKay as he is normally associated with belly-laugh hits like Anchorman. 'TBS' has collected many prizes so far and also has numerous Oscar nominations to its name.
Does The Big Short deliver or does it make you long for the exit door, I have the answers…
The Big Short stars an ensemble cast including Brad Pitt, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Christian Bale as four bizarre characters who predicted the financial crash in 2008. The film follows real life events leading up to the mayhem and tells the story of how these different people entwine.
‘TBS’ is based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis (Moneyball writer). The film is built around the impressive cast even though most of them never actually interact. They are all connected through the fact they saw the collapse of the housing market looming before anyone else did. The odd group all have something different to offer to the narrative through a way of personalities. Bale (Dr. Michael Burry) is the socially awkward guy, Carell (Mark Baum) is the short-fused man, Gosling (Jared Vennett) is the arrogant one and Brad Pitt is the morally (ish) correct Brad Rickert. Each of them know the fall is coming and each hatch their own plans to survive the impending crash due to being propped up on bad loans that are guaranteed to fail.
With that narrative in mind, Adam McKay could have made an over-the-top melodrama version. But in fact, The Big Short benefits from having McKay at the helm because he gives the film an extra dimension. Essentially, The Big Short is a drama about the American financial collapse of 2008 with phrases such as sub-prime mortgages, tranches, credit-default swaps, mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations mixed in the dialogue… this movie screamed out for something different, and Adam is the man. He continues with the energetic filmmaking of Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street but instead just states the facts with some added humour – nothing more, nothing less.
Let’s be honest, ‘normal folk’ aren’t really meant to fully understand the financial world; the industry is filled with jargon like the above so everyone gets confused and no one dares ask a question so they don’t look stupid. Enter Adam McKay… he provides ‘definition scenes’ with awesome cameos to explain what the terms mean. The best one has to be when the film breaks, cutting to Margot Robbie in a bath explaining sub-prime mortgages – genius.
When the collapse approaches near the climax of the film, McKay has another bow to his string. He darkens the film and his direction becomes a lot slicker. He keeps the comic-edge that has served him well for the previous 90 minutes but this departure from the narrative norm gives the film some fragility and morals that the audience has longed for – McKay simply delivers.
Adam is aided in his quest for a masterpiece by the monstrously talented foursome that anchor the movie. Their performances are brilliant and each of their roles has something different on offer. We can take solace in Christian Bale and Brad Pitt yet we can also scream with Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling. Bale is nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of the oddball Blurry and rightly so. He has sequences of delicate acting but he also has to ramp it up for intense scenes with his bosses.
Steve Carell also delivers for the second year running after his previous success in Foxcatcher. His Mark Baum is the connectable asset to this film. The audience are drawn to him because he is perhaps the most normal. He also makes you realise that the protagonists we are following are all profiting from everyone else losses, even people losing their homes. Yet, we still feel for Steve at the end even though he is $200 million richer. Carell’s performance is complex and layered but he nails it once again.
The Big Short is immensely entertaining. It not only tells us a serious story but it also gives us an appropriate amount of comedy to digest it with. As I said before, if McKay had shot this too linear and dramatic, it would have flopped. Although, the producers knew that because they gave Adam the job. McKay’s creative filmmaking allowed this film to flow and be thought-provoking. As the credits roll, you are left feeling slightly deader inside even though you have laughed for the past two hours. It’s an impressive piece of work from the comedy director who will surely land more features like this.
Cineroom’s Rating: 4 Stars
The Big Short is currently showing worldwide in selected cinemas – certificate 15.