Review: The Big Short, 2015

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The Big Short was a real delight, and I regret not getting to see it before making my Top 10 of 2015 list. I’m fairly certain it would’ve been on there, not just for the excellent performances, but for how truly unique it is as a movie. McKay takes a big leap forward here as a filmmaker by using his comic sensibilities in a more naturalistic film. In fact, he goes for broke when it comes to the naturalism, presenting the movie in a documentary fashion – using documentary as style rather than the actual substance. And not only does that work for this story, emphasizing the stakes of the situation by reminding you that although this a movie, it’s about real history, it makes it one of the most unique films of the year.

I thought all of the actors were great in this. Gosling continues to show growing chops as a comedic actor, while Carell continues to showcase his dramatic talents as a character actor. On the Filmspotting podcast, a lot was made of Christian Bale’s performance – if I may quote Josh Larsen: “You don’t give an actor like Christian Bale a glass eye.” So much was made of this, I expected a really big, wild comedic performance from Bale, and instead was pleasantly surprised to find him being rather understated. I think he’s actually gone way bigger for roles in the past and smartly chose not to overdo any of the many ticks that character has. Brad Pitt has turned into quite the elder statesman and gives perhaps the most genuinely funny performance in the film. He’s nearly at his most Brad Pitt and yet completely is this character, and it’s really funny without him ever playing at how funny it is. And part of his plot line involved actors John Magaro and Finn Wittrock who were the biggest discoveries of The Big Short for me. They were both really funny and effortlessly carried the audience into this big, confusing world that the whole movie is about. They also had one of my favorite scenes, when one of them turns to the camera and admits the scene we are watching didn’t actually happen in the way the movie is depicting it – letting you know that yes, this is a movie and we changed some things for dramatic tension, but the truth of the story we’re telling remains in tact. I loved that.

Ultimately, despite how funny The Big Short is and that being the main focus of my review, it’s a very angry film, and one that was quite upsetting to watch, especially in its final act. I graduated college in 2009, on the tail end of the collapse that this movie is about. I remember at my graduation ceremony, the big speaker we were all supposed to be excited for straight up said our generation was going to have the most difficult time using the degrees we had just paid so much money for of any generation in his lifetime. To this day I’m an hourly employee at a desk job in with degrees in English and Philosophy. So this movie ended up hitting very close to home for me – especially because I didn’t fully understand the collapse when it happened. This movie helped bring into focus the world I entered as an adult, the world I’ve found so difficult to navigate.

And that’s why I think this is one of 2015’s best films, and might be one of the defining films of this decade. I think this is one of those great, therapeutic movies, about something we all felt as a community, whether we understood it or not. And the movie becomes a tool itself to help us understand that time in our lives, and unravel some of the confusion we might still feel about it. And it happens to be one of the most entertaining movies of the year to boot. Kudos Mr. McKay, I look forward to your future work more than I ever have before.

The Big Short scored: ★★★★☆

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