Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Big Short - Movie Review

The Big Short, a movie based on things that actually happened, is directed by Adam McKay and is based off of a book written by Michael Lewis. The film features acting performances by Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Marisa Tomei, Carrie Lazar, Adepero Oduye, Rafe Spall, Hamish Linklater, Jeremy Strong, Jeffry Griffin, Stanley Wong, Finn Wittrock, and Melissa Leo.

The Story:
Dr. Michael Burry (Bale) has discovered a disturbing trend in the world of finance and housing that could cause a total collapse of the country's economic boom so, of course, he advises his clients to pour all of their money into a fund that will only pay off if his outlandish calculations are correct. While most people believe his claims to be unfounded a few businessmen including Jared Vennett (Gosling), Mark Baum (Carrell), and Ben Rickert (Pitt) literally buy into Burry's gamble by betting against the housing market. As the inevitable chips begin to fall, it becomes more and more clear that banks, investment brokers, financial conglomerates, and even the government are all entangled in a web of illegal tactics and ignorance that is only trumped by the efforts put in place to cover it all up.

The Review:
This is one of those "based on a true story" movies where you spend half the time saying "what the f***, how could this have actually happened?!" The layers and layers of story that unfold become so absurd it all couldn't possibly be real yet we were all there, we all experienced it, and we were all impacted by the resulting market crash and recession. As a director, Adam McKay has primarily been known for comedies like Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers and that experience here pays big dividends in creating this type of feature film. The story really needs a comedic sensibility to get its point across and McKay manages to perfectly balance everything out.

Even with a top notch story in place, what puts this movie over the top is the quality of acting from an all star cast highlighted by Christian Bale's take on the brilliant Dr. Burry. He does a great job of playing up the man's eccentricities while making sure you understand he is by far the smartest man in the room at any given time. Steve Carell was originally known for comedies but the last couple years have seen him jump into more dramatic roles and this one suits him especially well. Playing an ill mannered individual who does nothing but speak his mind was a refreshing change for Carell and he plays the part beautifully. We also get a great performance from Ryan Gosling who, oddly enough plays the most boisterous and animated character out of anyone else in the movie. This was quite a departure for a man who has, in recent years, redefined the quiet, smoldering bad ass.

Along with those standout performances, the cast is rounded out nicely by Jeremy Strong, Hamish Linklater, and the dynamic duo of John Magaro and Finn Wittrock who play Charlie Geller and Jamie Shipley respectively. The last two play a pair of investors working out of their garage who stumble upon Burry's information, recognize it for what it is, and enlist the help of Brad Pitt's Ben Rickert in an attempt to enter the game in a bigger way than they ever could on their own. We even get really good appearances from Marisa Tomei, Karen Gillan, and Melissa Leo in smaller, yet no less impressive roles.

The Verdict:
The Big Short has the total package. It has the name recognition, the powerful and powerfully entertaining story, and the fact that it shines a light on the failings of big banks and big government, it should carry a ton of momentum with it into awards season. Bottom line, this is a great movie that you should go watch as soon as you can and I would have no problem going to see it again because it's just that good.


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