The Big Short: Film Review

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I did not expect a film about the financial crisis to be interesting and entertaining, but The Big Short manages to do both thanks to a terrific cast including Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt and a script which tries hard to make the financial jargon simple.

The film begins in 2005 when hedge fund manager Michael Burry (Bale) notices that the dodgy or “subprime” loans propping up the housing market will fail by 2008 so he buys millions in insurance against the loans so he will profit in the future. His move is noted by trader Jared (Gosling) who informs Mark Baum (Carrell) and they also buy into the insurance scheme (I’m oversimplifying), but nobody believes the market is unstable until the 2007-2008 financial crisis hits.

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I could honestly not give you a detailed summary of what happens because I only understood some of the jargon on the basic level needed to get through the movie. I could not explain it and a lot of the detailed financial conversations went over my head. I only knew what was going on the surface level and just sort of accepted the plot as it went along. The great thing about the Oscar-nominated screenplay (by director Adam McKay and Charles Randolph) is that they use devices to make it as digestible as possible. Gosling narrates, sometimes to camera, and acknowledges some of it may be difficult to understand and there are brilliant scenes with celebrities including Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez explaining a financial concept. These two elements add humour to the otherwise serious tone of the movie.

Bale was brilliant and plays a goofy character I haven’t seen him take on in a long time. He has Asperger’s Syndrome, chills out in his office with bare feet and calms down with heavy metal music. Carell portrays an overly angry hedge fund manager who seems on the verge of a breakdown while Gosling is just damn cool. Pitt has a small role as a retired trader who helps out small town investors Charlie (John Magaro) and Jamie (Finn Wittrock) who discover the dodgy loans too. Pitt and Carell’s character are the main ones who make the audience realise the gravity of the situation – they may profit by betting against the loans, but many poor people will be homeless and unemployed.

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Given the subject matter, I’m surprised this didn’t feel like a slog because I really don’t understand the stock market. Time is given to explain different terms and it feels very light and moves on at a swift pace. I enjoyed it and this is simply down to the cast and the script, who 100% deserve the nominations they’ve received.

In cinemas Friday 22nd February 

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