The Big Short provides a behind-the-scenes look at the housing market crash in 2007.

Though informative, The Big Short assumes the audience doesn't know anything about the corporate world. 

It provides the showgoers with pertinent information about the situation surrounding the 2007 housing market crash and how investors bet against the supposed infallible mortgage-backed securities system. The Big Short takes on a condescending tone that comes across as stand-offish.

One of the first people to predict the downfall of the housing market was Michael Burry (Christian Bale), a hedge fund manager of his own company. He anticipated the crash as early as May 2005 and started approaching banks to invest his company's money against the mortgage industry. Many of the bankers thought Burry was insane, but Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), Mark Baum (Steve Carell) and Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) and their respective partners all began to follow suit.

The Big Short is a pseudo-documentary — it adheres to the styles of a documentary but has a script and some fictional elements. The cinematography is the most telling aspect of the pseudo-documentary filmmaking style. The cameras zoom in and out of close-ups, thus the picture is not always clear. Though this way of presenting the film is sometimes dizzying, it also creates a raw, authentic way to tell the story. 

The Big Short breaks the fourth wall, a style that was also present in another film about Wall Street — Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street.In it, Leonardo DiCaprio's character tells his story by engaging with the audience and looking directly at the camera. The Wolf of Wall Street utilized the style throughout the entire film, making it superior to the The Big Short's use of the technique. The only character in The Big Short that acknowledges the camera is Gosling, but he is not present throughout the entire film, so the effect is not useful.

The Big Short comes from director Adam McKay — most known for his work with comedies, such as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Unfortunately, The Big Short is no Anchorman. It fumbles with striking a balance between its moments of comic relief and its heavy, terrifying plot progression.

In order for the average audience member to understand what the oh-so-highly intelligent characters are saying, McKay includes on-screen definitions, brings in celebrities to give analogies, or has Gosling's character, who also serves as the narrator, deliver asides in which the plot is paused and he explains to the audience what is happening. 

The celebrity appearances were extremely random and condescending. It made it seem like McKay was saying, “If celebrities can understand this, then you should too.” Margot Robbie explained what subprimes were while soaking in a warm bubble bath and drinking champagne. Anthony Bourdain explains collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) by comparing it to repackaging leftover fish for other meals. Selena Gomez explained synthetic CDOs through a game of blackjack and the idea of side bidding. McKay was trying too hard to create humorous scenes when instead he should have stuck to the seriousness the film and situation deserved. While the analogies were helpful in a way, it could have been done differently. McKay could have had Gosling explain the confusing parts with voice-overs instead of halting the progression of the film.


Charles Randolph and McKay adapted the book written by Michael Lewis into the film’s brilliant screenplay. Because of the style of the film, it's easy to forget that it is scripted. It takes a conversational tone that transports the viewers into the thick of the corporate action. The genuine screenplay makes the audience forget that these are actors portraying the real-life counterparts. It really feels as if Bale, Carell and the rest of the cast are actually trying to uncover all of the fallacies in the market in the present time.  

The Big Short has a huge cast but not many memorable performances. The only two actors that stood out were Bale and Carell. Bale played a stuttering, socially awkward, intelligent character who would rather be alone than in the presence of other people. In an odd way, it resembles his portrayal of Batman in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy. The only difference is his character in The Big Short is not articulate — he knows what he wants to say, he just doesn't know how to say it. Bale did a good job, but his performance was not as notable as Carell's. Carell plays an angry, cynical man that is out to expose all of the dirty secrets in the banking system. Carell's character is the most dynamic. As the film progresses, we learn more about him and he becomes more grateful for what he has.

{{tncms-asset app="editorial" id="0e27cf56-c8a9-11e5-b0ca-236e3c7c2a8c"}}

Even though the film takes on a patronizing tone, it still allows the audience to become more knowledgeable so they won't have the wool pulled over their eyes by the banking industry. 

Rating: 3.5/5


Comments powered by Disqus