(Spoiler alert, but not really because you probably already know about the market crash in 2008)
The Big Short, director Adam Mckay’s attempt to make an interesting movie out of one of the more confusing events in recent history, turned the 2008 housing market crisis into the best movie to come out in at least the last year.The only comparison I can come up with is: it’s like The Wolf of Wall Street, but I learned something, and it didn’t drag on forever.
Not dissimilar to the characters in his film, McKay saw the housing crisis as a gold mine and, even though it seemed like a risky topic, went all in. Gambling a star studded cast of Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale and Brad Pitt, just to name a few, McKay and team spared no expense on this work of cinematic genius. And, just like the characters, McKay cashed-in big time with this one-of-a-kind movie.
The movie is an (almost) historically accurate representation of the housing market crash in 2008, focusing on the handful of investors who saw it coming and bet against the “infallible” mortgage bonds. The premise was a long shot, not only because it sounds about as interesting as watching paint dry, but also because it takes a base knowledge of the economy that most movie-goers just don’t have. Additionally, the movie was a hard sell, because anyone who was alive during 2008 — the entire audience of the movie — probably remembers enough to hold McKay accountable for accuracy and basically know the ending going in.
In other words, this dude wrote a movie about a boring topic that no one understands, but everyone knows enough about to criticize, yet he knocked it out of the park.
The first component that made this movie remarkable is, obviously, the cast. Though I know a movie with good actors isn’t inherently a good movie, The Big Short was impressive because of the pleasantly surprising characters that Carell and Bale played.
Bale played a socially awkward genius, Dr. Michael Burry, who was the first to predict the “big short” in the value of mortgage bonds. Burry, an eclectic and kind of meek character, was really gripping because his story portrayed the real life courage, self-doubt and pressure these real people went through during their decision. Though atypical for Bale, this weird, kind of mild-mannered character regally gives you a different but equally impressive example of his ability to act.
In an even more drastic contrast, notoriously goofy comedic writer and actor Carell stole the show as the most emotionally developed and heartfelt character in the movie. As Mark Baum, the leader of a team of brokers who bet on the short, Carell goes from a short-tempered, cynical business man to a remarkably pensive and reflective member of the human race. More so than any character, Baum came to understand the harsh realities of the impending crisis. He has a perfectly timed and developed realization that if he wins, America loses. It’s gut-wrenching to watch the emotional turmoil Baum is in after learning the magnitude of the CDO’s.
Not sure what a CDO is? That’s cool. With the help of Anthony Bourdain and some soup, you’ll be an expert by the end of the movie, which is why composition is the other main asset to the movie.
Through some of the greatest uses of “breaking the fourth wall” in cinematic history, cameo explanations of economic jargon and the perfect interweaving of several unrelated storylines, McKay created a new genre of film that I would call historical fiction documentary. Confusing in title, but effortless in practice, the movie style was educational and captivating in an unchartered way.
In summation, The Big Short is easily the most intriguing and cinematically innovative movie of the last five years, and it easily ranks on my top 15 ever list.
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