Review: 'The Big Short' is a lighthearted look at a dire situation


THE BIG SHORT: 4 ½ STARS

“The Big Short” is an infuriating movie. Not because it’s poorly made but because it is so well made.

See Full Article

It takes years of banking bafflegab and distils it down to the essence in what may be the funniest, smartest and most maddening look at why America’s housing market crashed in 2008.

The films opens with a famous Mark Twain quote, “I’t ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.” The quote is a bit of a Mobius strip but so is the story “The Big Short” is trying to tell.

Based on Michael Lewis‘ nonfiction best-seller of the same name, the film presents a cavalcade of facts and information formed into a story about how four investment-bankers—played by Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Finn Wittrock, John Magaro—saw the financial meltdown coming when no one else did. Taking on the arrogance of Wall Street’s old boy network, they bet against the American economy and, in the process, expose an unprecedented level of financial criminality.

“The Big Short” is a lighthearted look at a dire situation. Call it a dramedy. Director Adam McKay is best known for making movies like “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” “The Other Guys,” “Step Brothers,” so he knows how to milk a laugh out of a scene. He also knows that the level of understanding the viewer needs to get why the housing bubble burst is above the level of most MBAs.

The movie explains that Wall Street likes to use confusing terms to make you think only they can understand what they do. “It's like 2+2 = fish,” says one banker, expressing disbelief at the financial manipulations used by the big banks. To make the financial mumbo-jumbo sexy the McKay uses a variety of tricks, including cutting to Margot Robbie in a bubble bath explaining subprime loans in plain language. It’s a spoonful of sugar to help the expositional medicine go down. From the simple—one loan officer calls his clients “Ninjas, no income, no job.”—to the incredibly complex world of CDOs (collateralized debt obligations) “The Big Short” doesn’t shy away from tackling complex financial transactions but it never feels dry or forced. McKay is a showman, and layers the film with fourth-wall-breaking celebrity cameos and concise social commentary woven into the drama.

A great scene of Goldman Sachs executives laughing at Dr. Michael Burry’s (Christian Bale) $100 million investment is cut into a rap video celebrating excess. In one wordless scene McKay illustrates the arrogance of the bankers in the days before the rug was pulled out from underneath them.

Subtle it's not, but the director’s use of pop culture images and music to set the scene goes a long way to establish a time, place and tone.

“The Big Short” features strong performances—Bale stretches in ways we haven't seen from him before—but it is the film’s unflinching depiction of unbridled greed that will resonate.



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • Tambor doesn't see how he can return to 'Transparent'

    Entertainment CTV News
    Jeffrey Tambor, second from left, a cast member in the Amazon series "Transparent," poses with fellow cast members, from left, Kathryn Hahn, Jay Duplass and Amy Landecker during a ceremony awarding him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Tuesday, Aug. Source
  • Jeffrey Tambor doesn't see how he can return to Transparent

    Entertainment CBC News
    Actor Jeffrey Tambor says he doesn't see how he can return to the Amazon series Transparent following two allegations of sexual harassment against him. In an ambiguous statement Sunday, Tambor referenced what he calls a "politicized atmosphere" that has afflicted the set. Source
  • Cosby Show actor Earle Hyman dead at 91

    Entertainment CBC News
    Earle Hyman, a veteran actor of stage and screen who was widely known for playing Russell Huxtable on The Cosby Show, has died. Jordan Strohl, a representative for The Actors Fund, says that Hyman died Friday at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey. Source
  • Women of colour face different battle in sexual harassment scandal

    Entertainment CBC News
    In the overwhelming number of sexual harassment and assault complaints being revealed en masse, it's easy to overlook. We often miss what we can't see. But if you're a woman of colour, you notice. Since allegations surfaced against disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, provoking a landslide of more high-profile perpetrators including James Toback, Kevin Spacey, Brett Ratner and Louis C.K. Source
  • Model accuses Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- Model Keri Claussen Khalighi has come forward to accuse Def Jam Records mogul Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct in 1991 when she was 17 years old. In a report Sunday in the Los Angeles Times, Khalighi says that Simmons coerced her to perform a sex act and later penetrated her without her consent. Source
  • Model accuses music mogul Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct

    Entertainment CBC News
    Model Keri Claussen Khalighi has come forward to accuse Def Jam Records mogul Russell Simmons of sexual misconduct in 1991 when she was 17 years old. In a report Sunday in the Los Angeles Times, Khalighi says that Simmons coerced her to perform a sex act and later penetrated her without her consent. Source
  • 'Justice League' disappoints with US$96 million opening

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- Only in the modern era of superhero films could a US$96 million opening weekend be considered anything less than impressive. But that's the situation Warner Bros. and DC's "Justice League" is in. Source
  • Longtime country singer-songwriter Mel Tillis dead at 85

    Entertainment CBC News
    Mel Tillis, the affable longtime country star who wrote hits for Kenny Rogers, Ricky Skaggs and many others, and overcame a stutter to sing on dozens of his own singles, has died. A spokesman for Tillis, Don Murry Grubbs, said Tillis died early Sunday at Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Fla. Source
  • Longtime country singer, songwriter Mel Tillis dies

    Entertainment CTV News
    NASHVILLE -- Mel Tillis, the affable longtime country star who wrote hits for Kenny Rogers, Ricky Skaggs and many others, and overcame a stutter to sing on dozens of his own singles, has died. A spokesman for Tillis, Don Murry Grubbs, said Tillis died early Sunday at Munroe Regional Medical Center in Ocala, Florida. Source
  • American Music Awards reflect 2017 pop music, in which male acts dominate

    Entertainment CBC News
    The performers at the 2017 American Music Awards are evenly split between men and women, but the nominees? Not so much. In categories like artist of the year and favourite pop/rock album, where men and women compete, no female acts are in contention. Source