I’ll be the first to admit that it is a little cliché when you feel like the best movie of the year is one of the last ones that you see in a given calendar year but sometimes the world just works like that. The Big Short is a terrifyingly hilarious look at the recent economic crash that has the balls to not shy away from how stupid everyone was, and if anyone has even learned their lessons from it all.
The business of banking is and can be an absolute beast and in the mid-2000’s business was booming…almost a little too much. Deep in the numbers and the finance, four men (Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt & Ryan Gosling) all something that no one else could or would flat out refuse to see. The inevitable housing bubble collapse brought on by the blind greed of the big banks that had little to no foresight about the results of their actions beyond the end of their balance sheets at the end of a business day. With the world against them, convinced that they were crazy these men bet against a system corrupted by its own greed in an effort to show them and the world how broken the Wall Street economic system really is.
Plain and simple, the best fiction is the shit that you couldn’t make up even if you tried. The Big Short unabashedly dives into the corrupt stupidity of the Wall Street system and shines a light on a game that even those in the thick of it all don’t have a clue to play.
Based on the book of the same name by author Michael Lewis, writers Adam McKay and Charles Randolph manage to get to the visceral teeth of it all and turn what could have been a story about numbers and spreadsheets into an entertaining trip down the rabbit hole of commerce that can easily suck your very soul out from your chest if you let it. The story flows exceptionally well, with funky fourth wall breaks in the narrative if the financial jargon is getting out of control. We’re never supposed to be 100% about what is going on because quite frankly each of our protagonists in their individual stories are flying just as blind as we are as they grapple with the corruption of a system that was hell-bent on making sure that their broken math and rigged rules held up for them and only them.
It’s hard to believe that the director of Step Brothers and producer of The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard was the right choice for this one, but you will be amazed at how easily it all flows with the right balance of humor, anger and arrogance. It’s not a timid financial bio pic, its Gordon Gekko screaming I’m the kind of the world while high on cocaine with no one to stop him. McKay captures the surreal nature of it all with ease and aplomb as these guys realize how deeply fucked up this “Wonderland” that they live and work in actually is, and he allows these characters to show genuine emotion and fear at how the whorish greed of a few can ruin the lives of billions.
There are no genuine heroes in this film, which makes it even more amazing how emotionally engaging it all really is. With Ryan Gosling serving as our essential narrator Jared Vennett, he pulls no punches. He’s not a nice guy, but he sees how stupid it all has gotten and a chance to making a killing while his bosses and those around him flounder. Steve Carell brings some genuine heart to a hedge fund manager who is sick of the miserable system that is around him and an unavoidable opportunity to stick it to a system that has brought misery to so many people. Christian Bale as the socially awkward and borderline Aspergers financial genius and hedge fund manager Michael Burry allows us to laugh as he gets mocked for essentially being the smartest guy in the room while Brad Pitt as Ben Rickert guiding some young hedge fund managers in the game gives this insanity a human face while illustrating how fragile the system of life and humanity itself actually is.
It’s funny, it’s heartbreaking and in many ways it’s scary as fuck. The Big Short is brash and it’s ballsy because it’s real. Thank goodness we had someone with some comedic sensibilities tell us this story because if we NEED to laugh at the corruption and the bullshit that is all around us modern society and economic institutions, because crying or getting really serious about it wouldn’t do any good.