“Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry.”
‘The Big Short’, directed by Adam McKay in 2015, is an American comedy that tells the story of the 2007-2008 financial collapse through the eyes of speculators who made money from it. Christian Bale plays Michael Burry, a hedge fund manager who predicts the crisis and bets his fund against the housing market, Steve Carell plays Mark Baum, another hedge fund manager is alerted to this by Jared Vennett, played by Ryan Gosling and pushes his money in a similar direction. The complex machinations of the bankers and traders are unpacked in a series of cut-scene interviews with increasingly unlikely guest stars (Margot Robbie in a bubble-bath drinking champagne) giving context to the events. Despite the unlikely and dense subject matter, McKay proves himself to be a master at wringing both suspense and comedy out of what is essentially a story about moving money. Oddly, none of the actors, including Carell, play for laughs – but we are still positioned on their side and as the magnitude of the crisis slowly unfurls they are all revelled to be multi-dimensional. Brad Pitt (also a producer of the film) appears in a small role as a jaded retired securities trader. His place in the narrative is similar in a way to Pitt’s character in ’12 Years a Slave’, also produced by him, as the voice of morality. It’s a witty movie, packed with irony. It reveals a global financial apocalypse in a believable and, for the most part, an understandable way. McKay’s frenetic direction, the purposefully jarring fourth-wall breaking, and the sheer number of characters could increase the confusion, but it is testament to his skill as a director of farcical comedy that his is able to bring it all together and to make a coherent and engaging story.
Would I recommend it? Yes – not only is it fun, but it also goes some way to explaining where all the money disappeared to. Watch in a double bill with ‘All the President’s Men’, another film about incompetence at a high level, and a group of people who are able to see past the smoke and mirrors.