In The Big Short, writer/director Adam McKay creates a deliberately dizzying visual aesthetic to imitate the rhetoric involved in many of the banks’ business practices. He postulates that their vague language, confusing double dealings and overall disregard for ethics were the perfect shitstorm of stupidity. His scene transitions mimic The near grifter level quality of the banks dealings by barraging you with a quick succession of unrelated shots in an attempt to disorient you the same way the financial system has for decades. McKay wants you to see both sides of this problem, making you face the intentional, overly complicated system and jargon, but to also eventually understand it.
This is where some great cameos come in. There is a wonderful self-awareness to the film that helps with the comedic power, but also proves to be a great way to break down certain terms. Whether it’s Margot Robbie in a bubble bath, Selena Gomez playing blackjack, or Anthony Bourdain cooking, they each do a great job at simplifying terms and ideas that were meant to boggle the mind. Another great asset from the star-studded cast is Ryan Gosling, who all but narrates/navigates this great ensemble cast, including stellar performances from Steve Carell and Christian Bale.
The story weaves together every character and shows how their greed and opportunism lead to their gaining of wealth at the expense of millions of people. Every character, especially the one who is always outspoken with his moral outrage, starts off as unlikeable. Their development is fantastic to watch because it is so well-crafted, that you begin to empathize with their difficult decision, especially when they realize what the true cost of their fortune was. There were no heroes or good guys in this film, and maybe that’s the point. Even the winners are the losers against this broken, fixed system.
The Big Short at times channels the fast-paced financial market energy of Wolf of Wall Street, but with only a fraction of the drug use. Both films are based on true stories, but only The Big Short reminds you of it every time an outrageously unbelievable event takes place. The biggest difference is that the events in The Big Short, as preposterous as they may seem, actually happened recently and their devastation is still echoed throughout not only our nation but the world. McKay’s main goal was not only to break down the economic collapse into understandable terms with his undeniable comedic flair but also to show the people who were complicit. Aside from the obvious villains, like the unethical relationship with the banks and the government, McKay thinks we also have a complacent hand in letting their power remain unchecked so that the criminal cycle that lead to the collapse continues even today under a different name.
McKay, along with writer Charles Randolph, adapt this socially and politically relevant film in a time where most people think the horrors of the past are behind them. McKay has always had strong political views, and you could even see glimpses of them in his earliest work, like Anchorman. He is not coy about his stance in The Big Short, and has finally shown he can channel it into a humorously informative dramedy.
RATING: ★★★★★★★★ (8/10 stars)