While it may be a bit late to discuss movies I saw over break, seeing as it’s award season I feel as though I have a good excuse to discuss films still relevant at these shows. The critical darling I want to discuss this week is The Big Short, a film that follows the financial crisis of 2008. Now please, before you leave, this movie is not a financial high-intellectual type movie. Wait, you’re still walking towards the door? How about the fact that this film stars Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, and Ryan Gosling? You’re still not interested? How about the fact that it’s made by Adam McKay, the guy whose biggest films are Anchorman and Step Brothers.
There, now that I’ve got your attention, let me talk about how weird this film is. McKay, a comedy movie maker, brings something new to the biopic table that I’ve never seen before. He skillfully takes the complexity and heartbreak of the 2008 crisis and tells it in an entertaining format; he breaks down the persistent issues that allowed it to happen with a focus on the players who saw it coming. These players are mostly no-name investors played by some big names—Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, and Brad Pitt are just a few of the actors portraying the small minority of the hedge fund managers able to predict the fall of the housing market, and make it out well off by betting against it. First, I’ll start by saying that a run down of the story is pointless. I won’t be able to explain the housing crisis half as well as this movie, so you should just go watch it. But what I can explain is why I like it.
McKay, rather than sitting down the camera and having a few on screen financial experts sit in a room and explain the problem, shows and tells the story in an entertaining way. You get to see the people whose mismanagement of mortgages allowed the creation of a housing bubble, the innocent people screwed by these practices, as well as an attractive celebrity in a bubble bath, explain what a collateral debt obligation is. The Big Short does a great job of not dressing up boring stuff so it can be digested, but actually setting up the information to serve the story in a way that is both entertaining and easy to understand. In that way, it is a unique film, and one I highly recommend.
As a person who lived through the US financial crisis, I find it a bit embarrassing to say that I was incredibly uninformed about how the recession happened and why it did happen, however, I feel as though I came out of watching The Big Short as a much smarter viewer, and with this surprise film from McKay, I think he has left a legacy on how biopics should be presented. If you have lived through the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, as anyone who has read this probably has, you should watch this film, and I hope you get as much out of it as I did.