“The Big Short”
Directed by Adam McKay
In trying to accurately explain, indemnify and simplify the housing and economic meltdown of 2008, “The Big Short” wildly succeeds in every way “The Wolf of Wall Street” failed. And, yes, it far surpasses it in comedy, as well. Adam McKay, who has also written and directed such serious works as “Anchorman,” “Anchorman II” and the “Eastbound and Down” series, has provided us with a record of that period for the ages. And, perhaps the best thing I can say about it is that all the laughing you did during the film will be replaced by seething anger by the time you get out of the theater entryway.
McKay directs with forty different styles, each intended to bring across the idiocy of the times. You’re never quite sure who the hero is, which only adds to the punch in the gut as you depart. Many characters regularly break the fourth wall, acting as a sort of ironic Greek chorus to enormous affect. A wonderfully surprising pneumonic device is utilized over and over to explain the mumbo-jumbo used by banks to confuse the general public. When he takes dramatic license with the material, he announces he is doing so. He even proclaims the start of each act with a perfect quote. And the editing of the film, consistently cut with news and home video, brings to mind the best of Michael Moore’s considerable film-craft abilities, but wrapped by performance and supposition rather than preaching.
But best of all, he has assembled a brilliant cast who can handle the difficult task of assigning emotion to economic philosophy. Christian Bale gives, as far as I’m concerned, his best performance to date. Steve Carrell is masterful, hilarious, heartbreaking and very, very real. Ryan Gosling, while very funny, is the least three-dimensional character of the leads and the most like something out of “Wolf” – which is not to say he’s bad, he’s very good, but his role serves more as a plot stirrer and pales in comparison. The rest of the cast is uniformly good, but special mention to Jeremy Strong for, in many ways, being the one character who grounds the proceedings with a very real sense of historical place.
While the score was undiscernible, the soundtrack and music licensing are used to perfection…a soundtrack that includes former Attorney General John Ashcroft’s “Let the Eagle Soar”! I mean, come on!
Never boring for even a second and incredibly effective as a time capsule, “The Big Short” is not just a lock to be nominated, it will stand as the “Dr. Strangelove” of that awful period in our history. Go see it ASAP.