Review: The Big Short (★★★)

3 stars

The Big Short is an interesting take on the mid-2000’s financial disaster. It does a fantastic job of making the world of banking accessible and enjoyable. However, with odd choices in editing by Adam McKay, this film doesn’t really know what style of film it wants to be. There are many great moments in this but they feel so different in tone that they don’t really gel well together.

The film follows Michael Burry as he digs through the numbers and unveil huge cracks in the stability of the housing market to which he decides to make some money from. Bale shows yet again how great of a character actor he is with this superb performance of a social awkward analyst trying to convince his clients he knows what he’s doing. The movie then introduces Mark Baum as he also catches wind of impending crisis. Carell delivers another fantastic performance in a dramatic role, one where he dominates every scene he’s in. Baum is a man angry at the world but Carell does a wonderful job showing us his development as he channels his anger. Finally, the movie also follows two young investors, Charlie Geller and Jamie Shipley, who also accidently discover the same information and decide to enlist the help of Ben Rickert, a retired banker, to assist them in making a profit.

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The way in which they make money out of this is very jargon-heavy but the movie does a fantastic job of informing you of the ins and outs of all these terms. The downside is that this is delivered in a very meta way, as real world celebrities in odd locations explain the situation straight to the camera. I really enjoyed these moments and thought it added a surreal nature to all the chaos but it divided the film so heavily. There were also moments in which characters broke the fourth wall to address the audience that somethings works, yet at other times, it fell incredibly short delivering some of the worst dialogue in the movie.

The editing and camera work were done in an interesting way with camera shots not feeling professional. The shakiness added to the themes of instability that runs throughout and the edits were jarring, convoluted and all over the place, much like many of the characters’ idea of what was going on. Some of these shots really made the movie as they keep the pace and tensions high. I particularly enjoyed segments that showed you the passage of time. Normally you would expect to be shown a date at the bottom of the screen to allocate dates to the situations. This, however, showed stills of global events at the time to give you a deeper understand of the time period. however, there are moments when the editing leads to some of the worst sections of the movie, showing unrelated clips that serve no real purpose and are just confusing.

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In my eyes, it all falls down to the Director’s lack of direction. Andy McKay’s previous movie Anchorman makes it clear. It tries to create moments of humour that don’t really add anything to the movie, this occurs when explaining sections of the movie and it can tend towards seeming patronising. It especially feels condescending when the movie is supposed to be the confessions of these people, yet they lean more towards the side of bragging than anything else.

Despite this, the movie’s fast-paced nature reflected the confusion at the time and flipping between three people’s stories, that can end in any way, keeps the tension high. Although some areas fall short, it’s the character work on display here that is its greatest asset. This movie tries to recreate the similar style seen in greats such as The Wolf of Wall Street that it becomes obvious, which ultimately detracts from a series of very interesting, interlinked stories.

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