Did you know that a small group of bankers predicted the economy crashing before 2008? Did you know it started with these bankers predicting the housing market crash? Well, I didn’t know until I saw “The Big Short”, which is an insightful look at the events leading to the recession.
“The Big Short” is director Adam McKay’s (“Anchorman”) introduction to dramatic filmmaking and stars Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Steve Carell, and Ryan Gosling as the bankers who saw the financial disaster coming. Bale plays the eccentric Michael Burry, who first predicted the recession and bet the housing market would crash while everyone laughed at him. Gosling and Carell play bankers Jared Vinnett and Mark Baum, who learned of Burry’s deal and invested in it. Brad Pitt is a retired banker named Ben Rickert, who mentors two greedy young kids that want in on the short.
“The Big Short” is part docudrama and part satirical comedy, occasionally scoring some laughs (this is the guy who directed “Anchorman” afterall). It doesn’t always hit its mark due to dizzying camerawork and a lack of focus.
Bale delivers a brilliant performance as Burry. He’s a one-eyed man with a lack of social skills who’s focused entirely on numbers and metal music. He’s by far the most interesting character in this movie, but here’s the problem – he’s hardly in it! Carell gives one of his angriest and most human performances as Baum, a man overwhelmed by the flaws in the system and survivor’s guilt.
Pitt and Gosling are both the cool guys as usual, with Pitt portraying Rickert as a health-conscious retired banker, and Gosling acting as the film’s narrator. Vinnett’s narration scenes are funny in a dark and condescending way as he turns the scene over to several celebrities as guest narrators.
McKay’s strong point in “The Big Short” is showing us the horrors of the impending recession, but then finding a funny and cartoonish way to explain it to us. One scene involving Carell’s horrific realization with “Sweet Child O’Mine” as background music, followed by an explanation comparing a black jack game to the recession crumbling is the highlight of the film.
Sadly, there’s just not enough humor or balance between McKay’s cinema verite approach and his dark comedy angle. Not saying McKay should go back to what he knows because he made a good movie, but he does have some room to grow.