Mortgage crisis made easy and entertaining
Before I explain the synopsis for this film, just know that it is infinitely better and more entertaining than I could ever hope to make it sound.
If you’re reading this, chances are that you were around in 2008 and cognizant enough to know that some less-than-ideal things happened in the housing market. “The Big Short” tells the story of these exceptionally bad things caused (in part) by banks and their greed. Four men were able to predict this crash and attempted to short the market. Hence, “The Big Short”.
Even though chances are good that you were aware of the events of 2008, chances are even better that you don’t totally understand what happened. That’s okay, there’s no shame in it. I don’t either. The best part about “The Big Short” is that it knows that you don't understand.
Due to this unique challenge that “The Big Short” faced, they were able to do some wildly creative things to try to help the viewer understand the story. They even acknowledge at the beginning of the film that you probably aren’t well-versed in the subject. This doesn’t come across as insulting in the slightest because, well, it's true.
Obviously, the main characters involved are experts, so it wouldn’t make sense for them to explain the minutia of the crash. Instead, they constantly break the fourth wall and bring in cameos (that I won’t spoil here) to explain the seemingly unexplainable. “The Big Short” gets huge points from me for being ingeniously innovative and prolific at explaining outrageously complicated concepts.
Outside of being creative, “The Big Short” is also masterfully directed. In fact, it’s probably the most well directed film I’ve seen this year. First, many unique edits and shots are used to make sure you never lose sight of the fact that the financial crisis was something that affected everyone and everything, not just the bankers. Secondly, Adam McKay elicits phenomenal performances from every member of the cast.
Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt all could have anchored this movie on their own. I know I called “Spotlight” “one of the best ensemble flicks of the year,” and I’m glad I used that nomenclature, because “The Big Short” is hands-down the best.
Bale plays an awkward math expert with an affinity for heavy metal. Carell plays a deeply troubled, headstrong, convicted man who has no qualms with yelling at whoever he believes is wrong. Gosling plays the over-confident and cocky narrator whose first, second and third loves are all money. Pitt plays an ex-banker who may or may not be losing his mind and believes that seeds are the currency of the future.
Needless to say, getting to see all of these fascinating characters in the same movie is a treat to behold. Seeing them interact is even better.
Additionally, as if I’m not doting on this movie enough, “The Big Short” is contemptuously hilarious. Nothing about that sentence other than the word “contemptuously” should be surprising, considering that McKay has directed movies such as “Anchorman”, “The Other Guys” and “Step Brothers”. Rest assured, the humor in “The Big Short” could not be more different than any of the aforementioned films.
The closest comparison I can make about “The Big Short” is the “The Wolf of Wall Street”. “The Big Short” is basically “The Wolf of Wall Street” for grad students, and lacks all of the disgusting visual awfulness that “The Wolf of Wall Street” glorified. Also, “The Big Short” doesn’t suck.
There is a fair amount of strong language and one scene in a strip club, but it’s played off for humor and the character is only there to talk about real estate. Yes, to a stripper. It makes sense contextually, okay?
One of the other best parts of “The Big Short” is the recurring theme of accountability and honesty. At the heart of the film is a big, explicit message practically screaming “DON’T BE A FRAUD.” Sure, parts of the problem were ingrained in the system and started by the government during the Clinton administration, but at the end of the day, if the bankers had been honest and not made money their god, the problem could’ve been avoided.
In Luke 16:10-13, Jesus lays out the idea that it is impossible to serve two masters: God and money. It is for this reason that Paul writes in 1 Timothy 6:9-10 that the desire to be rich leads people into temptation, and that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.
“The Big Short” follows the Biblical narrative of what happens when people give in to this temptation, intentionally or not. This awesome parallel allows “The Big Short” to serve as a poignant cautionary tale against dishonesty and the love of money.
Overall, I absolutely loved “The Big Short”. The creativity, cast, directing, script, humor and everything else complemented each other to make this film nearly perfect. They simplified an unbelievably complex subject to a digestible level and made an insufferable subject extremely enjoyable. If you’ve got two hours, pick up a ticket to “The Big Short”, put on your thinking cap and enjoy. Be prepared to hear this title a lot come award season.
I already want to see it again.
Updated top ten of 2015:
8. It Follows
7. Steve Jobs
6. The Martian
5. The Gift
3. The Big Short
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