Release date: 22nd January 2016/Watch the trailer here
I, along with what I imagine is probably a pretty large proportion of the population, know absolutely nothing about finance or economics.
The Big Short is fully aware that it is a difficult film about a difficult subject which no one knows very much about, and no one really wants to know much about. Therefore, it is a film about a financial crisis – the American housing market crash of 2007, to be precise – that attempts to entertain at the same time as educating its audience in a subject that we could all do with understanding a little better. Sounds pretty boring, right? Don’t worry, it’s not.
Considering that The Big Short is about a very recent, very devastating, very serious financial crisis, it still succeeds in being laugh-out-loud funny. It is the product of Anchorman writer and director Adam McKay, after all – and with The Big Short, McKay has created something that is compelling and entertaining in a manner that any other film on such tedious subject matter could only dream of achieving.
The first hurdle that McKay needed to overcome was making these despicable characters at least somewhat likeable. The solution? A stellar cast of charismatic A-listers. Christian Bale has never been better as the antisocial, awkward hedge fund manager Michael Burry. Steve Carell is the always-angry Mark Baum, Ryan Gosling is hilarious as Jared Vennett, and Brad Pitt is almost unrecognisable in the wise yet eccentric mentor role of Ben Rickert. Throw in a fantastic supporting cast comprising of Marisa Tomei, Rafe Spall, Finn Wittrock and Melissa Leo (to name just a few), as well as celebrity cameos from the likes of Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez, and McKay is halfway towards making a boring subject a little less dull and a lot less infuriating.
The second challenge? How to make such a complex topic even remotely digestible. McKay admirably does all that he can to make the financial jargon comprehensible for his audience (even if a good 50% of it will probably still go over your head, but you’ll get the general idea), and in the process he creates a film that’s different from anything else around. From Ryan Gosling’s fourth-wall breaking narration to handy on-screen diagrams and utilising celebrity cameos to explain the more technical aspects of the issue at hand, The Big Short has a tongue-in-cheek approach to its story that is remarkably fresh, entertaining and enjoyable.
Don’t let the subject matter scare you off. It’s a topic that for many is boring, complex, or maybe even hits a little close to home. The Big Short acknowledges all of this. It may be overlong at 130 minutes, but it tries its utmost best to make every single one of those minutes great fun, and in doing so, it sheds light on a topic that a lot of us have chosen to ignore. It’s educational; you will leave the cinema feeling as though you’ve learned something new that you can talk about at work to make you sound clever in front of your colleagues.
If you decide to watch The Big Short, you should probably be aware that you’re letting yourself in for two hours of men talking about money and not much else. However, you should also know that you’re letting yourself in for two hours of completely unexpected, enjoyable fun – even if you’re not always 100% sure what they’re talking about.