AFI Fest The Big Short Movie Review: Holy Housing Crisis Batman!
Adam McKay is best known for directing a series of successful Will Ferrell comedies that include Anchorman, Step-Brothers, and The Other Guys. The idea of McKay directing a film about the housing market was rumored to be a passion project of his for years but apparently was a hard sell to the studio. After seeing the film, I honestly can’t believe that anyone would have turned down McKay making this film. The Big Short is a rare film that is entertaining yet informative. It’s a film that audiences can laugh at but will also learn something in the process.
The Big Short is the insane true story of the housing bubble burst that crumbled Wall Street in 2008. Dr. Michael Burry (Christian Bale) was the first man to predict the housing market would collapse and instead of going to the public with the information, he instead bet against the banks. When Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) hears about the investments that Burry made, he begins to research it. During his research Jared accidentally calls a wrong number where he talks to the hedge fund branch of JP Morgan run by Mark Baum (Steve Carell) and his team of three. This one phone call intrigues Baum enough that he and his team begin a full-scale investigation into the housing market.
Instead of making this film a documentary, McKay mixes documentary style filmmaking with everyday filmmaking. The result is something that is wildly inventive and pretty freaking brilliant. As someone who doesn’t really know much about the housing market crisis, this film gave me a great overview of the 2008 crash and left me feeling disgusted that I live in a country where something of this caliber happened to millions of people with no real remorse or penalty. Its kind of hard to believe that this actually happened but given the fact that it actually effected my mother personally as well as some of my friends, it really is just the harsh reality of how corrupt the banks were.
In addition to telling a great story, McKay manages to get a terrific cast to tell this story. You should know that the film features an ensemble cast that is used in the same vein as the film, Spotlight. Even though there are about 9 key actors that play important roles in the film, the true star of the Big Short is Steve Carell. As Mark Baum, Carell owns the screen as this angry hedge fund manager that hates being lied to and seeing people being taken advantage of. Baum was the one character in the film that had multiple layers and I personally felt like he was the one character with whom audience members would be able to connect. I loved how outspoken Baum was and how Carell made the character extremely funny but also oddly genuine and sincere. I honestly would not be surprised if Carell gets nominated for an Oscar for this role because he’s that damn good in the film.
Besides Carell, there are plenty of other actors that show up throughout the film. Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Hamish Linklater, Brad Pitt, Rafe Spall, Finn Wittrock, Jeremy Strong, and John Magaro all play an important role in the film. Each of these actors brings their A game and add something to the story. There are even a series of celebrity cameos that occur at various points in the film. These cameos are hilarious and really add something special to the storytelling.
Outside of the great script and great acting, I really admire how McKay tells this story by adding in pop culture references, news clips, and various celebrities into the mix. These three elements really enhance the film and make it unique. By adding in these things, McKay manages to make a film with a subject matter that should be dull, extremely interesting. Please know that this isn’t Wolf of Wall Street where you have lots of nudity and drug use but instead a film that handles the subject matter with a lot of respect and seriousness that isn’t afraid to add in humor to entice the audience.
All in all, The Big Short is truly something special and will be probably be brought up quite a bit moving into award season. While I watched this film, it was incredibly clear that McKay really cared about telling this story as did the actors.The Big Short is entertaining and funny while being highly informative. It is a smart financial film that almost anyone can appreciate even if the subject matter goes over your head. This is an important film to see and one that I hope gets the recognition it deserves when it is released this December.
MovieManMenzel’s final rating for the Big Short is a 9 out of 10.