“The Big Short” makes banking funny

By Jordan Reynolds

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A movie about the relationship between the banking system and the housing market in America couldn’t possibly be remotely interesting, could it? “The Big Short”, starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt, begs to differ. Adapted from the novel of the same name, written by Michael Lewis, the film depicts the financial crisis of 2010 and the events leading to the downfall of the US economy.  

“The Big Short” focuses on the main “outsiders” that managed to predict the Great Recession, years in advance- Dr. Michael Burry, Mark Baum, Jared Vennett, Ben Rickert, Charlie Geller, and Jamie Shipley. Burry, played by Bale, is a socially awkward one-eyed genius and the first to notice that the entirety of the housing market is based upon fraudulent mortgages. He decides that he wants to “short” the housing market, or bet against it.  Thus begins a tirade of purchasing “swaps” on hundreds of millions of mortgages, and others begin to catch on.  

The movie is masterfully crafted into a fast-paced comedic drama.  Actively acknowledging that banking is, in fact, quite boring, it deftly avoids boredom throughout calling upon celebrities to explain dense financial terms.  In one instance, Selena Gomez explains the concept of “synthesized CDOs” whilst playing a game of poker in Las Vegas. In another, Gosling compares the housing market to a bad game of Jenga. Metaphors and analogies are consistently present in order to make sure the audience comprehends the events of the crisis. Making banking interesting isn’t an easy task, but it’s one that “The Big Short” achieves with flying colors.

The breaking of the fourth wall is another tactic utilized by the film’s writer and director, Adam McKay, in order to keep the audience keyed in at all times. Ryan Gosling’s character narrates during the introductory scenes, and directly addresses the audience on multiple occasions- again, demanding the audience’s attention at all times.

The almost mockumentary style of cinematography- with moving cameras, random zooms, and characters directly addressing the camera- is reminiscent of Steve Carell’s perhaps most famous endeavor, television show “The Office”.  However, Carell’s performance in “The Big Short” couldn’t be more different from quirky Michael Scott. His portrayal of Mark Baum, filled with anger and frustration towards the lack of morality in the financial business, is heart wrenching and sincere.  

Christian Bale’s transformation into Dr. Burry is so complete that it’ll take time to remember that this is the same actor that played Batman in the “The Dark Knight” trilogy. The entire cast is nearly flawless, which is to be expected with some of the biggest names in acting.

All in all, “The Big Short” is an amazing piece of cinema, and creates a mind blowing representation of the lies, fraud, and greed that caused the financial crisis of 2010.  

Running at 130 minutes total, “The Big Short” opened Friday, December 11.

Jordan Reynolds is a Staff Writer. Email her at film@nyunews.com.

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