Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Big Short

Based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Michael Lewis, The Big Short chronicles a small group of individuals who made money betting against the housing market after recognizing a basic flaw in the mortgage system that would inevitably cause the bubble to eventually burst.

Director Adam McKay assembles an ensemble cast (Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Jeremy Strong, John Magaro, Finn Wittrock, and Brad Pitt) led by Steve Carell of those whose discovery of an amazing level of fraud in the housing market allowed them the opportunity to forecast the upcoming financial turmoil that those in the industry did their best to hide even after it became obvious what was going on. Our characters are neither heroes nor villains, just those amazed at the level of incompetence and deception perpetrated on the American public which they find a way to take financial advantage of by betting against those obscene loans ever being paid off.

The story is both fascinating and nauseating as it becomes clear to not only our characters but also the audience the insanity mortgage lenders and brokers were getting away with.

The script by McKay and Charles Randolph does a good job of walking us through the situation while allowing various celebrity cameos such as Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez (each playing themselves) to help explain the math and logic that allowed for such a flimsy house of cards to stand for so long and what exactly our characters were doing by betting against the house. The film acknowledges the boring aspects of the math on which several important aspect of the story rely while still showcasing how smart our cast of characters were for taking a chance against what, up until that point in history, had been the most stable aspect of the United States economy.

Carrell is entertaining as the self-important windbag with a conscience. Given the fact that he's the only one whose home life and backstory is delved into in any real detail you can call him the main character of the film, although The Big Short truly is an ensemble piece. Bale, as the genius eccentric, and Gosling as the asshole opportunist, also stand out both helping explain to the audience what is going on (even admitting where the story takes liberties) and moving the script forward.

The Big Short is a movie that will both entertain and infuriate you at the same time, more for the situation the American public found itself in than the work of these men to take advantage of it. There are no heroes nor villains here, just victims. And while making sure to entertain us with one of the best written screenplays of the year, McKay and company also make it clear the ramifications of what was allowed to occur because no one, except these self-interested few, were watching.

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