Director: Adam McKay (2016)
Take cover from an atomic bomb of fraud and stupidity in this knockabout drama based on the catastrophic financial crash of 2008.
Based on Michael Lewis’s account published as The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine (pub. 2010) it’s been nominated for five Oscars including best film, best director and best actor for Christian Bale.
Ryan Gosling plays narrator Jared Vennett, an unrepentant bond salesman at Deutsche Bank.
Vennett meets the one-eyed Aspergers sufferer Michael Burry. Played by Bale in a bad haircut, he’s a maverick hedge fund manager.
Burry’s discovered Wall Street has been selling mortgages to people with no jobs or income.
So he’s ‘shorting’ the housing market, i.e. betting it will crash and anticipates making billions of dollars by betting millions.
Vennett teams up with Steve Carell‘s permanently angry banker Mark Baum to get rich quick.
Yet no-one seems to have fun with the money they’re making or have any idea what to do with it, or even why they’re doing it.
The script wants us to like these guys, showing us their life traumas to garner sympathy.
They’re fictitious versions of real people and we’re encouraged to see them as heroic outsiders, uncovering the impending crisis.
But they willingly keep schtum and treat it as another investment opportunity.
Then the film’s millionaire movie producer Brad Pitt turns up looking like a retired geography teacher and flexing his social conscience, much like he did in his self-produced project 12 Years A Slave (2014).
Pitt plays another banker who makes a min out of the misery of millions..
Financial flicks Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf Of Wall Street (2014) and J.C. Chandor’s Margin Call (2013) have already covered much the same ground as The Big Short.
This hasn’t the blistering riotousness and moral vigour of the former in which Margot Robbie also appeared, and lacks the sober cynicism of the latter.
It’s all very Scorsese light with an up tempo pace and jokey tone created by pop tunes, freeze frames, frantic editing and characters regularly speaking directly to camera.
Plus it’s full of great performances, very energetic and niftily employs a game of jenga to explain what causes the banking meltdown.
But it’s misjudged in its sympathies and patronisingly employs Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez as themselves to explain the maths.
But The Big Short fails to condemn these hypocritical parasites – the bankers not the actresses – and instead dresses them as heroes.
They should be strung up from lamp posts with the rest of the bankers responsible.