The Big Short, 2015.
Directed by Adam McKay.
Starring Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt, Finn Wittrock, Max Greenfield, Melissa Leo, Rafe Spall, Hamish Linklater, Tracy Letts, John Magaro, Jeremy Strong, Marissa Tomei, Karen Gillan, Stanley Wong, Byron Mann, Margot Robbie, and Selena Gomez.
Four denizens of the world of high-finance predict the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s, and decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight.
The Big Short is pretty much right up my alley. Thematically it’s in between Spotlight and The Wolf of Wall Street. It has the careful, specific storytelling of Spotlight, but told with the absurdity of The Wolf of Wall Street and honestly takes the best of both parts and makes something perfectly in the middle. There are several moments of fourth wall breaking, directly addressing how complicated and hard to follow these Wall Street movies are, or any movie based on a subject matter that has lots of jargon. There’s even a moment that pokes fun at conventional storytelling when for convenience a plot device is left by one character and another just so happens to pick it up and then proceeds to look into the camera and say “this isn’t how it really happened”.
This is the most daring project to date for Adam McKay whose works up to now have been Will Ferrell movies. He’s brought a frenetic energy to the project which again recalls The Wolf of Wall Street. It’s kind of hard not to see the comparison when an actor from Wolf shows up and breaks the fourth wall to talk about a plot device. This is also more focus on the story of what actually happened and it uses the situation itself to bring out the humor more so than manufacturing it.
The Big Short has very good acting from everyone involved. It’s an excellent cast, and everyone is having fun. Carell is the movie’s emotional center and he shows once again how great of an actor he is. The dialogue is great and it makes me wonder how much of this is just Michael Lewis’ book being extremely translatable to film. It’s constantly funny until it’s extremely sobering and reminds its audience, yes this actually happened and it’s terrible that it did.
The film has minor faults and all really have to do with McKay facing unfamiliar territory. The movie is staged well, the actor’s are directed well, the jokes are well told, it really is like a veteran director took a swing at this and knocked it out of the park. Except…..
For some strange reason McKay feels the need to have really schizophrenic camera work in the movie. A shot will start off as if the camera is being readjusted, as if somebody messed up holding the camera but the editor left it in. There are moments in editing that are sloppy, with some scenes ending abruptly. There’s a very powerful scene including Carell and for some reason McKay barely films it. It’s doesn’t ruin the movie but is so prevalent that you have to mention it. If it was a sloppily-directed film with moments of brilliance it’d be excusable, but its brilliant direction with moments of sloppiness. It makes me concenred for how seriously McKay will be considered for other projects because this is one of the best directing I’ve seen all year, save for the shots that belong in a film studies project.
The Big Short is a great movie. I think it should win for Best Adapted Screenplay I haven’t seen anything else his year that deserves it more. McKay should be considered for more projects like these. Maybe he’d even be better off doing a straight up drama, because then he wouldn’t feel the need to try so hard. He’s an interesting figure and I always support filmmakers try to break out and do new stuff. The Big Short is the best movie about this subject topic, and maybe the best all year.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Anthony Stokes is a blogger and independent filmmaker.