The Big Short is an ambitious attempt of retelling the stories of three real life Wall Street personas; Michael Burry, Jared Vennett and Mark Baum as well as other greedy opportunists who discover and capitalize a loophole in the American housing market prior to the 2008 financial crisis. The film features an all star cast with the lights of Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Christian Bale and Brad Pitt.
Essentially what you need to know about this ‘loophole’ is that a number of subprime (A,A++) home loans are in danger of defaulting, and the government as well as the big banks are laying a blind eye to this. Therefore these individuals bet against the housing market by throwing more than $1 billion of his investors’ money into credit default swaps. Are you confused yet? Don’t worry I was too. To explain all these complicated financial jargon, the Big Short narrates itself through breaking the fourth wall, utilizing celebrity cameos and occasionally displaying rapidly cut together slideshow images to no useful effect. Unfortunately these techniques do not do justice in making us viewers less confused. Often times, these techniques diverge from the main point they’re supposed to convey. Banking and Wall Street trading are complicated professions, and though the Big Short does make a commendable attempt in explaining the financial jargon involved, it does in the end fall short (pun intended).
Lets talk about humor. One thing Adam McKay does succeed in is making even the most deplorable acts humorous. The Big Short’s narrative is littered with comedic elements. It was certainly a strange choice to include so much humor, given the issue that the film is tackling, but strangely enough it does work. Instead of falling asleep about halfway through the movie because of all the financial jargon being thrown at me, I along with many others I assume, found myself attentive and determined to understand everything that the movie was saying. The film also does a noteworthy job in attempting to separate fact from fiction. The Big Short is based on a true story, and it does not feel afraid to let its viewers know what is true and what is not through its usage of ‘breaking the fourth wall’. Lastly, the Big Short, above all, is a brutally realistic look at the 2008 crash. It presents two different views of people; those who suffer and those who profit but suffer underneath as well. The truth is that no one profited from this crash, and that is what I took away most from this movie.
In short, the Big Short presents an extremely complicated subject in a semi-understandable manner. The financial jargon is difficult to comprehend, and the film does not always help by distracting viewers from the point through using pretty imagery or celebrity cameos. However, what the film does succeed in is its use of humor to make even the most deplorable aspects of the movie comedic and presents a very realistic look into the biggest financial crisis to ever hit our civilization.