Films

The Big Short (2015) Film Review

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Despite the fact that this may be considered an ‘unpopular’ or ‘against the grain’ opinion, I really can’t bring myself to say that I enjoyed this movie, let alone say I liked it. While it did have a few undeniably funny moments, and only occasionally at that, there certainly wasn’t enough jokes or humour or even stimulation to justify paying the admission fee. I understand that this title isn’t intended wholly as a comedy, being described as a ‘comedy­drama’ hybrid, at its core it’s just what I perceive to be a poor Hollywood rendition of the Michael Lewis book. Something tells me this is one of those cases of ‘the book is better’, not solely due to the unflattering cinematography but because this, to me at least, does not seem like a movie that cinema audiences should have been subjected to.

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Getting into the plot, the ‘short’ of it, is that this title is a documentary­esque ‘based on a true story’ movie outlining and reiterating the events that occurred prior and leading up to both the United States housing bubble’s discovery and its inevitable burst, causing the American housing crisis.

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The ‘big’ of it is that this film follows a select few named individuals, all of which are involved in the finance sector, who each have their own respective views and roles in the events that transpire. The movie begins with a look back to the 1970’s with Ryan Gosling’s character describing to us how a single banker proposed an idea that led to a domino effect of banks, and its employees alike, making lots and lots of money. We fast forward thirty years to 2005. Mike Burry, (played by Christian Bale), is interviewing a new prospective employee. We are treated to a brief glimpse through the looking glass at MIke’s past which has no real relevance to plot, or anything at all. Mike Burry is a real person, we get it. Moving on, he requests that the newly hired employee bring him a particular list of mortgages for him to look through. As Mike’s forté is numbers, he decides to take a closer look into a certain set of mortgages that were lumped together in one particular bundle due to, what appears to be, simple curiosity. What he finds does appear to worry him but he also senses an opportunity. Acting upon this chance he has identified, the movie then jumps around giving us the perspectives of quite a diverse cast. Mike is not the only one who has become aware of this however, as the other characters find out about said opportunities and attempt to try their hands at it themselves.

Left to right: Byron Mann plays Mr. Chau and Steve Carell plays Mark Baum in The Big Short from Paramount Pictures and Regency Enterprises

Left to right: Byron Mann plays Mr. Chau and Steve Carell plays Mark Baum in The Big Short from Paramount Pictures and Regency Enterprises.

Normally I would now discuss scenes or moments I liked but there really is nothing I can think of. One of my major gripes with this movie is rather ironic. The banks in question created fraudulent mortgages and insurance and were selling this stuff to their customers. They knew what they were selling and they knew it was bad. Yet they sold it anyway. Which, when you think about it, is kind of funny seeing as that by putting this movie into theatres they are doing the exact same thing. Selling something to us that we don’t need as it isn’t worth it whatsoever. Unless of course that’s the joke and this a parody of the banks in question but to actually do that and think it would be funny? Really?

Let’s not go too deep into the ‘comedic relief’. Due to the nature and subject matter of this film it’s obligated, obviously, to include some form of humour to alleviate the mood every now and again. To accomplish this task, sometimes an actor would curse, repeatedly if need be, or look at the camera to address the audience. The Big Short not only breaks the fourth wall, it shatters it. It goes above and beyond House of Cards, and that’s saying something. Not to sound dry and humourless but if all you have going for you in terms of ‘comedy’ is the use of vulgarity it just comes off as a poor attempt at trying to keep the viewers attention. If you have to go out of your way to elicit a laugh the attempt will sooner be laughed at rather than what was said.

I’ll contain my need to criticise the editing and cinematography. All I will say is that it became annoying and that’s putting it politely. On more than one occasion someone would be speaking but just before they’d finish their sentence the audio would just stop and the camera would cut to someone else. I’m not quite sure if this was an attempt to save time or it was just bad editing but I’m leaning more towards the latter. The film is two and a half hours long so I doubt it’s the former. In general the cinematography just outright didn’t make sense. I don’t remember the last time I was watching a film and thought to myself: “Yeah, okay. What? Why?” If the movie is going to make me wonder why it’s trying to be something it’s not, i.e. interesting, isn’t the time I spend wondering about this less time I have to watch the actual movie?

After the two and half hours, (yes, two and a half hours), you won’t walk out of the theatre thinking “wow what an informative and eye opening experience of a film.” You’ll walk out and think “If only I’d left after the ‘Selena Gomez explaining economics’ scene.” If you wanted to learn about the housing crisis of 2008 you’d be better served using Google as opposed to seeing this. That may seem either too honest or harsh. Or both. I like to think I have an eclectic taste and that I give a lot of slack in terms of what I can find entertaining. If I wanted to watch an economic documentary with vague attempts at humour I don’t think The Big Short would make my shortlist.

For those interested in details of the starring roles I’ll sate your curiosity. In no particular order…

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Ryan Gosling stars as the self ­proclaimed ‘cool guy’ banker Jared Vennett. This seemed more like a narrator role than anything else. Some might say a misuse of talent. I do have to hand it to Ryan though, practically every scene he makes an appearance in was funny.

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Brad Pitt stars as Ben Rickert and had a William Macy thing going on. If I was pressed to comment further I’d say that the hair and beard were a new look.

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Steve Carell takes on the role of Mark Baum and decided to take this opportunity to spend an entire movie impersonating Ray Romano from Everybody Loves Raymond, just in a higher pitch.

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Christian Bale plays Mike Burry. A hedge fund manager with a glass eye and aspergers. Apparently Christian practiced making one of his eyes lazy to give the glass eye effect, so that’s something.

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Margot Robbie ­ I’m not entirely sure why Margot made an appearance in this film. I also can’t understand why they felt the need to give her champagne while she lies in a bubble bath with more foam than bath present. I wonder how much they paid her to read maybe a page or two of dialogue before telling the audience ‘where to go.’ At least Margot makes more sense than Selena Gomez.

Selena Gomez ­ For some reason they thought that having Selena Gomez in the movie might make it easier to teach economics 101 to the 12 year olds that clearly are never going to go and see this film. The ex­Disney star didn’t really do anything to help the film. I would elaborate on what was discussed in her scene if I hadn’t spent it wondering why she was in the movie. Why not just get Margot to do it? Was she still in the bath?

If you are just a casual cinema lover chances are, like me, you’ll go into this film and understand less than half of the financial jargon that’s being thrust upon you, then forgot the majority of it upon exiting the theatre. While this title doesn’t exactly have any surprises, and it certainly can’t be spoiled seeing as shock the housing crisis happens, the bulk of it is forgettable. I will concede that for this title to have even been made it must speak volumes for the book, but the execution on the big screen just falls flat for me.

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I should clarify for those reading this review that I did not read the book. I may revisit this film in the future after having read the Michael Lewis title and perhaps my opinion will change when seeing how the two compare. For now though, The Big Short, in my opinion, is as tragic as the events it centres around.

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