Smart and snappy, this comedy is one of the scariest films of the year, using humour to outline the 2008 economic collapse from the inside. With characters who are based on real people, the film shows how economists made a fortune from the financial devastation inflicted on millions of families. And the movie cleverly points out that all of this happened (and people are still getting away with it) because the general public can't be bothered to pay attention.
Things were so booming in the first years of this century that it was easy for the media to divert the attention of Americans away from the dark underbelly of the financial world, creating big scandals out of nothing, spurring rampant buying sprees and making stars of non-entities like the Kardashians. Meanwhile in 2005, investment expert Michael Burry (Christian Bale) noticed that America's mortgage market was turning toxic. So he offered to "short" it, betting against this always-stable market by purchasing credit default swaps. The banks thought they would make a fortune from him, carrying on their dangerous practices. But other experts saw Burry's point, including the nerdy genius Mark Baum (Steve Carell), the shark-like Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) and a pair of newbies (Finn Wittrock and John Magaro) who tip off their reclusive mentor Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt). When the economy imploded, these men became billionaires.
Director-cowriter Adam McKay is better known for silly movies like Anchorman, so he packs this film with raucous cutaways to pop culture references of the period, as well as hilariously absurd explanations of economic issues from, for example, Margot Robbie in a bubble bath or Selena Gomez playing blackjack. This approach actually heightens the horror of what's going on as fraudulent bankers and corrupt government officials conspire to undermine the foundations of the economy. Although the explanations still feel like gibberish to mere mortals, it's at least presented in a way that's entertaining.
Continue reading: The Big Short Review
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