Even though I was initially surprised by the fact that multiple showings of The Big Short were sold out was kind of surprising. I didn’t think most audiences would be interested in a seedy, satirical business related drama over Christmas. But I forgot one thing; millions of people were actually affected by this not too long ago. If you were impacted by these events, you’re going to want to see this.
The Big Short isn’t just solid entertainment, it’s legitimately important. The director of nothing but a few Will Ferrell comedies has taken an incredibly complex four year story and turns it into an easily digestible method of understanding the economy and one of the most critical pieces of the last decade. It’s funny, infuriating, and should be required viewing for anyone looking to vote in a general election.
The Big Short does a lot to try and help you along, but also expects you to keep up with its rather breakneck speed and snappy, fast paced dialogue. Even if you have very little understanding of the economy and how the stock market works, you can still get a solid understanding through clever imagery and funny yet smart sequences featuring random celebrities pausing the film to explain something in a metaphorical concept. These can range from Anthony Bourdain explaining mortgages with fish soup to Selena Gomez explaining CDO’s with a poker game. It’s a brilliant way to break up the monotony of a film that largely takes place in office buildings, yet the strong characters and acting make sure that it never drags despite its more than two hour runtime.
Speaking of strong performances, the standout has to be Steve Carrell. He made waves after last years Foxcatcher (which I never got a chance to see) and really proved himself worthy after years of sillier roles in films such as Anchorman and The Office. It’s great to see when a comedic actor does do drama well. Christian Bale and Ryan Gosling are also very entertaining, while Brad Pitt has a much smaller role than the marketing may have lead on. Everyone does a good job and legitimately felt as though they wanted to be there, something that’s important for the more comedic first half of the film.
Usually when a film has a drastic tonal change after a while into the running time, it can come off as jarring or unnatural. However, director Adam McKay manages to take the tone from silly and outrageous to downright depressing and infuriating without ever feeling forced or gimmicky. That’s probably how the real life characters felt while this was going down, and it’s only natural that the film adaptation should do its best to stay true to these events.
The real standout though, wasn’t the actors or writing. It was instead, the editing. The Big Short utilized some of the funniest, most unique and creative editing that normally would seem out of place in a wide release, yet somehow just worked in a story that was, as its trailer stated, ‘so shocking, so powerful, so unbelievable, and it’s true’. At one moment, a character literally turns to the camera and explains that something that just took place didn’t actually happen quite like that, then explains how it did actually happen and states why they changed it.
Changes like this are really what make this film stand out and truly feel unique. Parts are meant to resemble faux-documentaries, randomly pausing and zooming on a characters face or having Gosling’s character act as a narrator. Normally, these feel like pointless gimmicks, but it was clear that the screenwriters knew what they were doing. They wanted to take something that could have been incredibly dry and bland and turn it into something that people who aren’t familiar with Wall Street could understand, and it’s a miracle that they did.
A stuffy awards season drama based on the same events could have easily been ignored by mainstream audiences who would’ve likely never gotten a good understanding as to how and why millions of people got screwed over less than a decade ago. If that isn’t worthy of some screenwriting awards, I don’t know what is. They managed to not only tell a story in a good way, but do it in a way that matters in real life to real people who really got screwed over by the events taking place on screen.
Not only that, but it manages to really hit you in the gut when it matters. It can make you laugh and almost feel bad for the characters involved, before realizing that they were some of the ones responsible for capitalizing on the degradation of the US economy, something that still affects us to this very day.
The Big Short is a genuinely good film, but it’s what matters in the real world that makes it stand out. If you were one of the people impacted by these events, it should be required viewing to get a better idea of what happened and maybe even avoid another one of these disasters. The Big Short is one of the best films of the year for a multitude of different reasons. At its core, it’s a solid and entertaining film, but it’s real world impact and attention to detail put it in another realm from any reasonable expectations.