Review: The Big Short – Economy collapse made cool

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The Big ShortWe have met the enemy and he is us.” That famous quote by the late Pogo cartoonist, Walt Kelly, perfectly sums up the unsettling moral of The Big Short, a new film that does an excellent and entertaining job of making the economic complexities of the Great Recession understandable to the average moviegoer.

This has been called an “important” film and although the term gets tossed around more than it should, I couldn’t agree more with that plaudit. In fact, I can’t think of any another movie that has as much significance or relevance to the world we live in. Everyone should see this movie as many times as possible until they take its lessons to heart. Greed is not good and it will be our downfall.

I would never have guessed that comedy writer/director Adam McKay, best known for his sophomoric Will Ferrell films like Anchorman, could pull of the feat of making complicated and boring financial processes as dramatic, suspenseful and funny as they are in this amazing movie.

Based on the bestselling book, The Big Short: Inside The Doomsday Machine, by Michael Lewis, The Big Short revolves around four different financial groups that are betting assumed housing and credit bubbles are going to burst, and they stand to make billions when and if the economy collapses.

The Big ShortIn one of his all-time greatest performances, Christian Bale plays Dr. Michael Burry, a goofy and eccentric ex-neurologist who has become a well-regarded financial analyst, until he predicts that the usually stable housing market is going to crash and he bets almost all of his investors’ money against the strongest pillar of the American economy.

Other bankers, like Mark Baum (Steve Carell), and money managers, like Charlie Geller (John Magaro), Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) and Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), get wind of Michael Burry’s strange shorting strategy and jump on the ‘short’ bandwagon.

Federal regulators and too-large-to-fail financial institutions have their heads in the sand until it’s too late and the ship finally sinks, with millions losing their homes and jobs while the American taxpayers bailout the banks that got us into this mess. Meanwhile, the few who foresaw this happening collect billions at our expense.

The Big ShortSteve Carell also delivers a very impressive performance and it’s hard to believe this is the same guy who plays the hilarious Brick Tamland in Adam McKay’s Anchorman movies. He’s very funny here as well, playing a tortured character who wants to do good but ultimately fails miserably.

Good Fellas is the closest film I can think of to The Big Short’s storytelling style, which routinely breaks the invisible fourth wall between the screen and the audience, especially when it takes a time out to explain its more difficult concepts; but this unconventional gimmick actually helps by adding entertainment value to the narrative – especially in an unexpected cameo by Margot Robbie.

The Big Short has it all: great acting, emotional drama, hilarious humor, sex appeal, thrills and suspense, topped with vital educational information; and it ends with an ominous warning that we should all be taking very seriously. This is truly an important film. Grade: 9/10

Photos © 2015 Paramount Pictures

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.