R Dir: Adam McKay | Paramount | 2h 10min
Plot: What’s it about?
There are a few things in life that I have no interest in. I can safely say that one of those is banking and finance. I took Accounting three times in college for crying out loud! Granted I never went to class, but that’s another thing all together. If you’re talking about personal property, mortgages, interest and anything dealing with a bank I just do not have the interest to even give it my attention. I know, that’s a stupid and stubborn attitude, but it’s just the way I’m in. So, when the housing market crashed in 2008, I’m pretty sure the last guy who would have even noticed. I honestly don’t think I even knew of it until I started doing a bit of research on this film. How’s that for living in a bubble? Still, I have to credit Michael Lewis and his novel The Big Short – it’s charming, smart and witty all at the same time and, it goes without saying, it hit the nail on the head. Lewis has had two other novels published, The Blind Side and Moneyball. The latter is one of my favorite films of the last decade, though I’ve always been a baseball fan. All three of these films have been nominated for Best Picture which is saying something. Ok, you ready to learn about mortgage collapses and big banks? Yeah, me neither.
The movie starts around 2005 as we focus on a set of four people: Dr. Michael Burry (Christian Bale), Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), Mark Baum (Steve Carrell) and Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt). Each is successful, though it’s Burry who first notices that there might be a potential collapse in the housing market. He uses the assets of his company to procure some loans from some of the bigger banks: Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and so forth much to the chagrin of his boss. This catches the eye of Jared Vennett and, via a wrong number, gets Mark Baum and his investors interested. Two younger guys looking to get rich seek out Ben who has made his billions and is now more interested in saving the planet and living healthy. And, in a nutshell, that’s it. The entire movie is a lead up to what we know already happened and we just want to see them get rich and say “I told you so” to everyone that thought these guys were crazy.
To the film’s credit, they know that most people don’t understand what the subject matter is all about and they have a little fun with it. The characters will break the fourth wall and say something along the lines of “If you didn’t understand that, here’s Margot Robbie in a bubble bath who will explain it to you in plain English.” Clever. The film won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and what’s even more amazing is that Adam McKay directed it. If you don’t know the name, he’s the man behind some Will Ferrell films like Step Brothers, Anchorman and The Other Guys. An interesting choice for sure, but he pulled it off (and got a Best Director nomination to boot). The movie is smarter than the audience and it knows it. That’s part of the fun. But it’s not condescending in its tone, it’s more playful if that makes any sense. The two performances to look for are Christian Bale and Steve Carrell, both of who really make the most of their parts. If the mortgage industry isn’t your thing, that’s ok – just sit back and be entertained. I was.
Video: How’s it look?
Presented in a 2.40:1 AVC HD image, The Big Short looks every bit as good as you’d think it would. Unlike some of the crystal clear films that are churned out by Hollywood, this one looks great but still manages to have a bit of grain for some realism. Colors are generally bright and bold and detail is second to none. The movie uses a variety of methods to convey the overall look and feel of the film, some stock footage and montages are thrown in for good measure. It’s a nice-looking picture, to be sure, and one that won’t disappoint.
Audio: How’s it sound?
I was looking at the back of the box and saw a DTS X logo on there and was trying to comprehend why this, of all movies, would contain such a track. For those that don’t know DTS X is essentially the competitor to the Dolby Atmos system. There aren’t a lot of receivers out there that decode this yet and I’m not one of the fortunate ones that has one. Still, the included (down sampled) DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack has a few moments of greatness to it. Vocals carry the film, though as Christian Bale’s character rocks out to heavy metal rock, we get a taste of it in a few scenes. Mouse clicks fill the air which is a nice and oft used effect. Certainly the film doesn’t sound bad by any means, but it’s an odd choice for this type of next generation audio format.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- In the Tranches: Casting – A look at the ensemble cast, how they came to be a part of the movie and a few odds and ends about the film itself.
- The Big Leap: Adam McKay – The cast and crew are featured as the offer their praise for director Adam McKay who has found a nice transition from the Will Ferrell films to becoming an Oscar-nominated director.
- Unlikely Heroes: The Characters of The Big Short – A look at the main quartet of characters in the film and how they combined to form the basis of the entire film itself.
- The House of Cards: The Rise of the Fall – If you’re confused about what happened to the housing market – watch this. Even I understood it.
- Getting Real: Recreating an Era – Some of the technical aspects of the movie are explored such as the use of film instead of shooting digitally, some of the trends that were in effect back in the ’07-’08 days and so forth.
- Deleted Scenes – Five total, though none really offer a lot to the film, admittedly it would have been nice to see the one with Bale’s character and Asperger’s. Oh well.
The Bottom Line
Smart and clever, The Big Short was heralded by critics and fans alike. The film manages to take one of the most devastating things to happen to our country and made it into entertainment and that’s saying something. With a great looking and sounding picture along with a smattering of supplements, the movie is well worth a purchase or at the very least, a rental.