Stop What You’Re Doing And Watch The Big Short Now

Art & Culture

The Big Short, based on the book by Michael Lewis, takes a mockumentary style approach in its aim to explain the stock market crash in America in 2008 and how it subsequently resulted in the housing crisis. It primarily follows three groups of people that predicted the crash and how they managed to benefit from betting against what was believed to be stable mortgage stocks. 

The film has an all-star cast including Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell and Brad Pitt to name just a few. Christian Bale plays the part of Michael Burry, a hedge fund manager and one of the first to realise that subprime mortgages were in impending doom. It's really very easy to dislike Bale but he plays Burry well and apparently his portrayal is actually pretty accurate, he was well known for walking around his office in flip-flops listening to Metallica.

Ryan Gosling plays the part of Greg Lippmann with Steve Carell portraying Steve Eisman, although their names have been changed in the film. Carell is an American money manager who receives the tip off about the dodgy mortgage loans from Gosling, a stock market trader. The last group the film follows are played by Finn Wittrock and John Margo who with the financial advice from Brad Pitt, a retired stock trader, manage to cash in. 

Steve Carell is an absolute stand-out in this film and was by far my favourite. He’s in ethical turmoil throughout. There’s a strange kind of anger he carries, as if he is holding a grudge before anything’s actually happened. It’s easy to think of him in roles like Anchor man and The 40 Year Old Virgin but if anything they are a testament to his skill of being able to play the joker or something more serious. I had a lot of love for him after Foxcatcher but this is certainly favourite of his performances. 

It's really easy to be put off by films like this, when my friend first suggested watching it and described it as a film about the stock market my initial reaction was to switch off. Only once you actually start watching it do you realise what makes it so unique, it breaks down the fourth wall in such an interesting way that it gives you a chance to actually understand the stock market. When faced with some financial term you don’t understand the film cuts away to Margot Robbie in a bath to explain what a triple B mortgage is, or Selena Gomez at a poker table showing you how a CDO works. 

Director Adam McKay has managed to keep it light-hearted and comic, he keeps you interested without making light of the situation and its aftermath. This is another reason the film is so successful, the end pays tribute to the families that lost their homes and the hundreds more that lost their jobs. Watching it almost leaves you in state of disbelief that it actually happened. 

The film does fail to mention Meredith Whitney, a financial analyst who also predicting the downfall of big time bank Citigroup.  She might have not been featured as it seems that they wanted to keep Wall Street as something of a strictly boys only affair, only other women that make an appearance seem to be wives and strippers. Or maybe they chose not to include her because they didn’t want to add too many characters into the mix and over complicate the story line which they are trying so desperately hard not to avoid.

Overall I think the film is brilliant. Our society tends to take the stance that ignorance is bliss and what I like so much about this film is that it is trying to make us less ignorant. It’s trying to explain something that we would otherwise just shrug our shoulders at because really we can’t be bothered. By breaking that fourth wall it not only keeps us engaged but you learn something without particularly realising. At one point Gosling turns to the camera saying: “You feel stupid right nowYou don't understand what's going on. Well that's what the banks want you to feel.”