Double A Rating
There is a genre of computer games called ‘idle games’ or ‘clickers’. The idea is that you dip in and out of these games, click on the screen and then come back later to click again.
It might sound as fun as being asphyxiated by a sweaty sumo wrestler but these games can become addictive. Why? Well, every 10 to 20 clicks the numbers on screen go up. You barely have to do anything, just click and voila! Bigger numbers!
Whilst the numbers keep going up you click more and more for bigger and bigger numbers. Before you know it you’ve forgotten that you have a job to go to or a baby to feed – I mean those numbers aren’t going up by themselves!
That’s also a pretty accurate description of how the worlds economy is laid bare in The Big Short – It’s a lot of people chasing bigger numbers without really caring about what’s happening because, well… BIGGER NUMBERS MAN!
The Big Short focuses on a handful of people who foresaw the economic meltdown in 2008 and bet against the (historically stable) housing market whilst all the big banks were busy watching numbers increase.
At times, this film feels like you are gatecrashing a party because you need to pay close attention to everything that is going on. If you are tired, or not fully committed to this film then you’ll not get the most out of it.
This is because the screenplay is fantastic.
If that doesn’t make sense, let me explain. The characters are constantly monologuing about the direct reasons for the economic meltdown. You’ll be bombarded with words like toxic, mortgage, bonds, AAA ratings, sub-prime, loans, BB ratings and collateralized debt obligation.
Unless you are in the finance industry you’ll end up so lost you’ll start screaming “WILSON!” unless you pay close attention to the volume of words that are thrown at you.
Even if you do pay attention you’ll eventually hit a point where you brain turns to soup. Amazingly though it’s at precisely these moments that the film says something like “Here’s Margot Robbie in a bubble-bath to explain”.
Whilst the run-up to these moments start to make you feel like you have an IQ of 13 these simple analogies make all of that hard work pay off by making it all click and you suddenly feel clever again. Me no dum dum no more!
It’s a remarkable achievement by Writer Charles Randolph and Writer/Director Adam McKay and is unquestionably worthy of an Oscar nomination for best screenplay simply for making you feel lost and found at the same time yet never resentful of it’s complexity.
On screen; there are only two stars. You can forget Ryan Gosling and to a lesser extent Brad Pitt because it’s Steve Carrell and Christian Bale who are the highlight here.
I’m not a huge fan of Steve Carrell but he was effortlessly funny in this. It’s not Steve Carrell trying to make you laugh but instead it is him playing a serious role of someone who is inadvertently funny. This is all enabled thanks again to the fantastic script.
Bale is equally as good but is on the other end of the spectrum. He is subdued, socially awkward yet highly intelligent. In fact it’s almost too good a portrayal of the character that I have to wonder if some of the traits displayed are indeed of Bale himself.
I love the way that the rest of the banking world are shown as pretentious fucks who casually gamble with people’s lives. This must be the way that 90% of high rollers act in finance.
It’s a shame though that the film doesn’t give much time to precisely these actions but the point of the film is to educate you on why it happened and not what the ramifications were.
My biggest complaint would be the shaky, faux-documentary cinematography that admittedly fits the tone of the film but I found shaky, soft and blurred focus shots distracting. It’s not enough to take enjoyment out of the film but I really didn’t need these distractions when I was desperately trying not to be stupid head.
The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:
+ Economic meltdown explained for idiots
+ Steve Carrell
+ Christian Bale
– Your full attention is demanded
– Dialogue Heavy
– Uninteresting cinematography