Film review – The Big Short

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THE BIG SHORT
Black comedy about the collapse of the world economy in 2008, starring Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Steve Carell and Brad Pitt.

How well do you think you could explain the events that led to the collapse of America’s housing market in 2007 ?
“It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.
No, that’s not a line from the film but it might as well have been .. (it was actually a Winston Churchill quote about Russia from 1939).

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The basic premise of The Big Short is that high finance is all smoke and mirrors but we’re too wrapped up in our everyday lives to stop and wade through the layers of jargon to find out the truth. The movie attempts to dish the dirt using a none too subtle approach which borders on the satirical, yet somehow I don’t think the Americans have fully grasped the concept. It’s trying to be a knowing, matey kind of film that lets us – the audience – in on the secret. Ryan Gosling’s lead character is also the narrator and from time to time throughout the picture will turn to the camera and address us directly, which I found to be a crude and clumsy tool. But then I find Ryan Gosling to be a crude and clumsy tool most of the time, too.
As ever, Christian Bale steals every scene he’s in, playing an anti-social financial whiz, while Steve Carell continues to hone his short-tempered grumpster role ever more as he steadily repositions himself from being a comedic fall-guy to a typecast character actor. Brad Pitt’s role is interesting but a bit under-used. You get the feeling his man was the key to unravelling the entire chain of events that unfolded, given that he’s the reclusive financial mastermind who’s already walked away from the markets once out of frustration and disgust.

Yet the single most annoying thing about the film is the way they use celebrities such as Selena Gomez and Margot Robbie to explain terms like “The Credit Bubble” or “Synthetic CDO”. It’s patronising and it’s lazy and it makes the film feel dumbed down on a whole new level, way beyond the already smug, self-righteous posturing by Gosling’s desperate banker.

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I think by now it’s probably obvious that I wasn’t over-enamoured by The Big Short.
It’s actually not that bad. It’s a watchable movie, but it’s also an annoying one.
But then the whole subject should make you angry: these people are hateful and selfish and everything that’s wrong with the planet right now. And the fact remains they’re still out there, still doing the same things (using different jargon) gambling with our economies and still paying themselves huge bonuses.
All the while, we continue to slavishly buy their products, swallow their BS and mortgage ourselves to the hilt to get a foot on the property ladder. Maybe we should just become a nation of renters and spend the money on fun things like fast cars and holidays ?
It’s what they seem to do and they look pretty happy to me.

I think there’s a need to make a serious movie about the banking crisis, but this ain’t it.
To use a financial analogy, there is a slight return on your investment if you watch The Big Short, but in no way is it any kind of windfall.

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