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Film Review: The Big Short


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Adam McKay's The Big Short is based on Michael Lewis' book about a group of Wall Streeters who predicted and profited from the the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

In 2005 Michael Burry (Christian Bale) discovered that the housing market was extremely unstable due to sub-prime mortgages, which are risky loans made to people who are often unlikely to be able to pay them back. In predicting this collapse, Burry effectively bets against the housing market.

The sole economic aspect of the film is very complicated, and ironically, the people who considered these bundles of mortgages safe investments did not even understand the underlying value of them.

However the film does an excellent job of presenting complicated issues in a simple and entertaining way. Celebrity appearances from the likes of Selena Gomez and Margot Robbie are used in humorous sketches to explain the key aspects of the film. These cut scenes, along with the comical and honest narration of Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) make the film engaging throughout, especially for the ordinary viewer who is struggling to keep up rapid pace of Wall Street business.

In the same way, editing and cinematography in the film works flawlessly with the narrative, as fast pace, quick edits underlines the nature of the issues presented. Although initially the film's montage sequences and quick editing made it look as if it was adopting a similar style to the Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street, The Big Short successfully has a unique and entertaining style of its own. Moreover, the soundtrack, which sometimes overpowers the dialogue, surprisingly enhances the idea of the nature of these conversations which are fast, ambiguous and unstable.

The characters are incredibly well crafted, and McKay succeeds in creating several unique and equally entertaining characters. Christian Bale in particular is fascinating in his quirky persona as an antisocial hedge fund manager who is often bare-foot and wears a baggy t-shirt in his office.

In the same way Ryan Gosling's wit and charm engages the audience and keeps the movie honest in moments of eye contact with the camera, in which he explains if something did or did not happen the way it has been portrayed. Steve Carell is a significant strength in the film, with an angry and fearless character who allows for comic relief during significant scenes. Brad Pitt's calm demeanour is a welcome addition in a sea of eccentric characters. Despite being involved in this money making scheme, Rickert is perhaps the moral centre of the film, being the only one who recognises that through economic gain, ordinary people will suffer.

Although some prior knowledge of the financial crisis would certainly allow audiences to get more out of this film, it ultimately does an excellent job of describing what is a very complicated number of issues, even for those involved. Adam McKay successfully presents Wall Street and its numerous characters in a unique way which informs and angers, yet entertains.

The Big Short is out in UK cinemas now.

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