Anchorman director Adam McKay takes leave of standard comedies to deliver The Big Short, a revealing and provocative comedy-drama detailing the various stories of a group of men who predicted the cataclysmic 2008 financial crisis and prospered as a result.
Packed with a talented ensemble of actors, including Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt and Steve Carell, The Big Short certainly bucks trends when it comes to telling this type of story, one which many documentaries and dramas have already tackled. McKay may be directing a serious look at the fraudulent and frankly criminal, but that doesn’t restrict his comedic chops one bit, imbuing the film with plenty of tongue in cheek humour, hilarious quotable lines, and fourth wall breaking moments of genius.
The random cameos from a myriad of famous faces to explain financial gobbledygook are a perfect example of this.
And yet, the black humour never overshadows or cheapens the drama. McKay wisely chooses to keep his lead characters sympathetic and likable, even if each has his/her own various flaws or character defects. Refusing to brush over the tragedies that arose as a result of bankers defrauding millions of innocent home buyers, the film keeps this idea front and centre, reminding us when it can that whilst our favourite characters came off well in one way or another, not everyone else in the world did. It’s a valiant sentiment that ultimately saves the film from being yet another celebration of greed and financial selfishness, something films like The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) reveled in.
The sporadic, fast flow editing and the occasional slip into documentary-style may feel jarring for some people, but the effect this gives cannot be ignored, elevating the film and giving it a unique identity. McKay manages to tempt some truly excellent performances from his cast, with Steve Carell’s anger fueled but honorable hedge fund manager giving the film much of its heart and pathos, especially towards the end, where events begin to get more emotional and morally difficult for all concerned.
Some of the finance terminology and explanations will leave audiences scratching their heads. But this aside, the film makes sure to be entertaining and informative without too much in the way of dumbing down. Great performances, laugh out loud moments of comedy, and a strong moral outlook on events help to make The Big Short an enjoyable, informative and entertaining film, one which on-paper sounds like nothing of the sort.
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