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The Big Short film review


★★★★

Directed by Adam McKay

Written by Adam McKay and Charles Randolph

Starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt

Film Review by Hannah Sayer


After beating out the likes of The Revenant and Spotlight to win the Producers Guild of America’s Best Picture award, The Big Short has become the latest front runner who is predicted to take home the top price at the Academy Awards on the 28th February 2016. The PGA has predicted the winner of the Best Picture Oscar for the past eight years. Having been praised for everything from its strong ensemble, editing and directing, to Adam McKay’s and Charles Randolph’s adapted screenplay based on Michael Lewis’ best-seller ‘The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine’, The Big Short has successfully made an account of the financial crisis of 2007-2008 funny, entertaining and extremely compelling.

Four outsiders saw what no-one else could: the collapse of the U.S. housing market. In 2005, hedge fund manager Michael Burry, in a worthy Academy Award nominated performance from Christian Bale, makes the discovery that the U.S. housing market is becoming increasingly unstable. He decides to ‘short’ (bet against) the house mortgage bond market. If they collapse, he profits. Trader Jared Vennett, played by Ryan Gosling, hears of Burry’s dealings and believes his predictions to be true. He teams up with hedge fund manager Mark Baum, played by Steve Carell, and his team, who decide to try and profit from the impending collapse. The film intertwines these two storylines with the account of two young investors, Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock), who become involved with the help of retired banker Ben Rickert, played by Brad Pitt, who is also one of the film’s producers.


The Big Short is certainly an ambitious piece in trying to bring this important but complicated story to a mainstream audience. In attempting to make the narrative more accessible, Ryan Gosling’s Jared Vennett breaks the fourth wall as an intrusive narrator to aid the audience with some of the jargon used and to reassure that we aren’t meant to have known these complex terms before the film began. McKay makes his dramatic debut with The Big Short, but humour is still prevalent. The use of celebrity cameos such as Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez to provide explanations of complex financial terminology like CDOs and sub-prime loans are effective in providing a basis for the audience to begin to digest the complicated concepts, while being directly addressed by people they recognise and admire. These brief narrative pauses work in allowing the audience moments of reflection on the somewhat horrifying and unbelievable events that lead up to the collapse.

Throughout the narrative, there is an underlying tone created of both anger and disbelief at how the banks allowed for this to happen. By the end of The Big Short, it’s clear and shocking when you fully comprehend that there’s no reason why this won’t happen again.

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