R | 130 min | Biography, Drama
Review - Matt Mungle
**In theaters December 23rd 2015**
Synopsis: Four outsiders in the world of high-finance who predicted the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s decide to take on the big banks for their lack of foresight and greed.
Review: The Golden Globes, Critics Choice, and many film groups have listed THE BIG SHORT as a movie to see. Whether it be for ensemble cast, individual performances, or the directing of Adam McKay there is much to applaud. Highlighting one of the most confusing and for many devastating events of the 2000's the story is fast paced and infuriating.
Dr. Michael Burry (Christian Bale) saw it coming first. How? Other than a brilliant mind and sixth sense for finance, he just looked. He looked where no one else did. And what he saw was the ginormous housing bubble with billions of dollars riding on it. And he bet against it. Once word of this trickled out it reached the ears of other insurance and financial brokers who decided that he was either right or insane. But the more they started digging the scarier everything looked. And, good or bad, they all wanted a piece.
Plot lines are woven through separate groups of people all connected by their interest in the banks that are holding all these mortgages. No one is as angry at the system and out for blood more than Mark Baum (Steve Carell) who rose to fame betting against subprime mortgages. Then there is Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) a mortgage trader for Deutsche Bank whose insight helped him to win big as well. And finally Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), a reclusive and eccentric broker who along with Cornwall Capital walked away with close to eighty million in profit. Several of the names were changed. Some were not. But the facts remain as detailed in the book by Michael Lewis, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine.
The entire crisis of 2008 is almost impossible to understand. THE BIG SHORT does a decent job of making it clear and decipherable to the common man. McKay will take a break from the business jargon to have real celebrities define and interpret hard to grasp phrases using metaphors and smaller words. This is both clever and distracting. Though, yes, it does help, it also breaks the rhythm of the script. Having Selena Gomez talk to me about how the financial betting world works is a tad demoralizing. But I did learn something, so go figure.
If you are looking for outstanding performances there are two in this one. Steve Carell and Christian Bale. Though they are never on screen together theirs are the characters to watch. Burry with his savant mind and Baum with his passionate zeal are fodder for explosive and high velocity characters.
The bottom line and most thought provoking thing about the film is, who do you root for? You definitely can't root for the banks and the mortgage companies. These fat cats are making zillions off of hard working Americans. You can maybe look at those who took them on as heroes but in the end they made billions too. As always it is the middle and lower class that lost. And lost big. So there is no winner. No shining moment. No let's cheer for Captain Vengeance. If you are hoping for an "Erin Brockovich" this movie has none. But it is still incredibly insightful and at times mind-blowing.
THE BIG SHORT is rated R for pervasive language and some sexuality/nudity. The sexuality/nudity is brief and most adults will be able to gloss over it with little objection. It is intended for thinking adults and those who, like me, love a chance to peak behind the scenes of some of our world's most prominent news headlines. The language is prominent but fits the frustration of the characters. I give it 4 out of 5 dotted lines. It is a shocking story that will make you shake your head in bewilderment. It is also sobering to think that it could easily happen again. All of this topped off with fine dramatic performances.