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Review: The Big Short

Roslyn Hull

Four denizens of the world of high finance predict the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s, and decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight. IMDb

Another week, another clever, original film – it must be awards season! Yay!

This film has some very hard ground to cover just setting up the story, before the action really gets started. It has to unpack financial terms that sound like an indecipherable foreign language, in a way that both entertains and explains – without the audience feeling like dullards.

It also needs to introduce lots of diverse and, mostly, unlikeable characters that will be the ‘heroes’ of this tale – although most never even meet – AND keep an up-tempo mood in a story that is foreboding, condemning and ultimately every bit as cynical about large banks as those banks are about their duty of care to their customers and their country.

Big ask.

All of this is achieved smartly and with great style by…wait for it…Will Ferrell’s comedy partner. Yep, not kidding, not a bit. This was co-written and directed by Adam McKay – mostly seen at the helm of dramatic classics like Anchorman and Talledega Nights. I love Anchorman – I think it is a great comedy, I just didn’t expect the man behind that to have the chops for this story but he does. He really, really does.

This film is a great piece of entertainment based on the real life events that broke the back of the American Dream. That it is not told as a tragedy but as a comic drama is refreshing and frankly, a lot more powerful for the laughs.

I went in not really involved in the financial world at all. I came out feeling angry at the banks and the whole worldwide money market and utterly unwilling to trust any of them. I laughed, I had a good time and my perception was altered – not by a message being pounded home as it is in some ‘worthy’ films – but by actors at the top of their game working in collaboration with a smart director.

McKay isn’t just willing to let the fourth wall collapse for a moment or two – he smashes it to pieces and tramples the shards underfoot. I also loved his take on that 80’s chestnut – the montage – reminding the audience of key events, music and pop culture that anchor the story to its times.

The film opens with Ryan Gosling speaking directly to camera. Various celebrities pop up, after being introduced, to explain a particular aspect of the money market, and Steve Carell finally gets a dramatic role to sink his teeth into. I love this man – a great comic, a wonderful voice actor and one of the delightful surprises of films like Little Miss Sunshine and The Way Way Back. His character is the heart and broken soul of this film. But I also loved Christian Bale as Michael Burry and the whole diverse cast of great character actors too.

The film is not based directly on facts but on a book by Michael Lewis, who has a happy knack of turning true events into dramatically gripping stories. He also wrote Moneyball and The Blind Side so the man knows his way around a story. However, just wait until you see how the characters discuss their own stories!

Loved it.


Ros Hull

Roslyn is a writer and storyteller who loves all things Canberra, her family, sci fi and movies – but not in that order. She has worked in museum education since 2001 and has a passion for imparting knowledge to others. Writing is her happy place, particularly if there is a dog at her feet and a coffee in her hand. More about the Author