Monday, January 11, 2016

Movie Review #360: "The Big Short" (2015)

Movie"The Big Short"
Director: Adam McKay
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
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Three different groups of bankers and fund managers notice that the housing bond market is propped up on bad subprime mortgages and are headed for default. They all do what everyone thinks is crazy: bet against the most historically stable bonds on the market through purchasing insurance swaps.

Reading the summary for "The Big Short" makes it seem like it's all about bonds, insurance swaps, and other investment banking exchanges. It doesn't sound like the most interesting subject to most people, and it's not supposed to. Director Adam McKay, along with the help of his stellar ensemble cast, takes the normally dull subject of macroeconomics, which makes the eyes of most sane people gloss over in boredom at the very mention of the word, and delivers it in a darkly humorous, riveting way. Unlike most films, even this year's underrated "99 Homes," which deals with the same subject in a different manner, "The Big Short" is shot in an interesting and different way, which helps it all feel not so stodgy. It opens up with an almost documentary look and feel as still photos are presented in a PowerPoint-esque format and a handheld camera sets the stage for what's to come. The film frequently refers back to this style from time to time, too. Also, unlike most films, and this will be a deterrent for some, many characters here break the "fourth wall" and address the audience directly. Primarily, this is done by Ryan Gosling's character Jared Vennett, who breaks it the most and also narrates the story. Finally, in an effort to make the subject of the film engaging for most viewers, celebrities like Margot Robbie, Anthony Bourdain, and Selena Gomez play themselves in short interludes throughout the movie and attempt explain economic jargon in layman's terms for viewers. We really appreciate the difference in shooting style and delivery of this movie as it does make it more entertaining and engaging for the common person unfamiliar with such business-y terms.

All of the acting in "The Big Short" is nothing short of excellent, but Steve Carell as Mark Baum and Christian Bale as Michael Burry put on exceptional performances. The have both been nominated for numerous awards, including two acting nods at the Golden Globes, though they both lost in a mind-boggling way to Matt Damon for his performance in the hilarious "I'm gonna die in space" survival movie "The Martian" (SARCASM!!!). Again, regardless what the Golden Globe nomination panel says, much like "Joy" and "The Martian," this is not really a comedy, but rather has some comedic moments throughout to balance out the real-life struggle and strife, and the mounds of economic vocabulary. These are dark comedy elements, folks, and this is probably the closest of the three movies we mentioned to being an actual comedy. In addition, the writing of the screenplay here is sharp, witty, and sickening all in one fell swoop. At its core, this film is a somber reminder of the carelessness that led to the housing market crisis and the global economic crash of 2008. You won't leave the theater thinking "man, that was hilarious," you'll leave feeling disgusted to discover just how so many people on so many levels dropped the ball almost a decade ago. And what's worse? They have not taken the steps needed to fully prevent it from happening again. Timely and effective, "The Big Short" manages to be both a stark reminder and a warning all at once. The stellar acting, different execution, and acute attention to detail makes this film one of our favorites of 2015.

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 9/10
IMDB's Rating: 8.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 87%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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