'The Big Short' is a AAA-film!


I am embarrassed to say that, being the business graduate that I am, even I couldn’t follow half of the things that were going in The Big Short. It’s such an incomprehensibly technical script; which is great for authenticity’s sake, but will no doubt be daunting to non-finance viewers! But it’s like what Ryan Gosling’s character said, “Does it make you feel stupid? Well, it’s supposed to.” We’re not meant to understand all of it, but don’t worry, the movie does a good job explaining (in very amusing ways, I might add) the basics of all the highfaluting financial concepts. And at the end of the day, what mattered was that I found myself deeply moved by the film’s intrinsic themes of greed, selfishness and true value.

The Big Short revolves around the very few people who saw the American economy collapsing back in ‘07-‘08, and how they made a profit from it.

Baum Vennett 2 Ben

Well that is the short and very simplistic version of it, at least. I’ll leave it to the movie to explain to you what stuff like the housing bubble, subprime loans, CDOs and credit default swaps are, because one of the best things about this film is how it takes this very serious and complex subject matter and crafts it in a way that’s understandable to the layman. Not completely understandable – I mean you’re not going to be running around making high finance trades after watching this or anything – but enough for you to understand the situation; and that before them was a system of greed, perpetuated and intensified by even more greed. That the banking industry at this point in time was essentially a group of crooks who hide behind a veil of terminology and technicalities – of false legitimacy. The level of greed of these people is uncanny! Its evil that’s so brazen and unapologetic! I may not have been able to fully grasp the financial jargon, but clearly I’m still very much emotionally affected.

It could have easily been dry and painstakingly boring, but both director and his ensemble cast produced something that was energetic, engrossing and most importantly, relevant.

This film assembles Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Steve Carell, and a plethora of other talents. Carell, as great as he is at making people laugh, delivered one of his more powerful dramatic performances in The Big Short. His blunt, morally righteous, hedge fund manager, Mark Baum, provided this film’s soul. In a sea of self-indulgence and moral abandonment, he was the only one who was in it just to stick it to the (imperfect) system; the only one who actually cared that the banks were screwing people, and decides to screw the banks back. Bale’s eccentric Dr. Michael Burry was also a standout performance. You’d never guess that this guy played Batman just a few years back. He plays the characters oddities and aloofness with conviction. The rest of the stellar cast all gave absolutely wonderful performances, but those two were my favorites.

Baum 2 Burry 3 Vennett 2 Kids

Director Adam McKay’s cutaways added a unique flavor to the film while also being surprisingly functional. They were a nostalgic reminder of the era in question and grounded the film to reality, sort of intermittently prompting that this really happened. It also constantly drove the film’s emotional tone wherever it needed to go. It would be gleefully exuberant at one moment, then heavily somber the next. McKay’s visual style amplified any given moment’s gravity but it’s also how the film, considering it’s very grim subject, is able to maintain a certain level of light-heartedness.

The way it describes complicated financial concepts, for example, is entertainingly inventive. Ala- Ferris Bueller 4th wall breaks and spurts of comical outbursts and dialogue also make their way in this very edgy film. I guess it wouldn’t be an Adam McKay film without at least a little dose of humor.

Margot Robbie explaining finance in a bubble bath - pretty much sums up the vibe of the film.

This was one strong dramatic directorial debut for Adam McKay, especially considering he’s known for directing memorable comedies with Will FerrellTalladega Nights, Anchorman (1 and 2), Step Brothers, The Other Guys – and writing for Saturday Night Live. It’s a huge leap from his usual material, but McKay is still able to deliver one top-of-the-line, engagingly critical film.

But beneath all the high-stakes turmoil and satirical humor really was a criticism of the financial system and the real life villains who run it. It provokes one into being concerned, even afraid, about the numbers that no one would normally care for, about economic stability, about one’s financial welfare and whether or not the people we entrust with our money really should be trusted. We accept authority by face value, but maybe we shouldn’t. This could be true for Wall Street and the big banks, but this could also be true about a number of other societal institutions in any given country. To secure our own futures, we don’t all need to be economics prodigies, but at the very least we all need a certain level of financial literacy, vigilance, flexibility and foresight.

Man, I really was affected.

At first glance, The Big Short’s very technical nature seems all too intimidating, but don’t let the numbers and the percentages and the men in fancy suits fool you, this is an A-grade (or AAA-grade) film; one that will tickle you, rattle you, anger you, and rouse you. It tackles one of the most serious and complex subjects you can imagine and presents it in a visually riveting, beautifully acted, consistently entertaining, and comfortably accessible package while never losing its strong, reflective, moral core. This is a film that’s seemingly all about making money, but peel off the top layers and you’ll see that it speaks volumes about abusive businesses, materialism, and the human nature – not a bad two-hour investment, am I right?


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