Oscars 2016 Best Picture Review: ‘The Big Short’ Is Morally Ambiguous But Fun To Watch
The Big Short, co-written with Charles Randolph and directed by Adam McKay, tells the story of how several financial tycoons and hedge fund managers predicted and did everything in their power to profit from the economic collapse of 2008 by “shorting” or betting against the market. Based on the non-fiction bestseller by Michael Lewis, the film traces hedge fund manager Michael Burry’s (Christian Bale) discovery of the instability of the house market and his decision to bet against it to eventually realize a 489% profit.
‘The Big Short’ Movie Review
The film has an all-star cast with the likes of Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt in the lead roles as well as somewhat distracting cameos by celebrities like chef Anthony Bourdain, singer Selena Gomez and The Wolf of Wall Street‘s own Margo Robbie, who do their best to explain the dry terminology in an entertaining way throughout the film. But the movie clearly goes even farther in aligning itself as an extension of The Wolf. Because of its themes of greed, crime and corruption, The Big Short is unavoidably reminiscent of Scorsese’s film from a couple of years ago, which was equally well-acclaimed with five Oscar nominations. But whereas The Wolf had the seductive appeal of an outrageous lifestyle, what The Big Short has to offer comedy. That is not to say that the ridiculous lavishness and extravaganza in The Wolf of Wall Street wasn’t entertaining in its own way, but McKay is known for a certain kind of humor from movies like Anchorman and Step Brothers. This makes The Big Short the perfectly absurd satire of one of the most significants financial events of our lifetime.
The Big Short is perhaps most fascinating because it is based on a true story. The film provokes a certain kind of disbelief in the viewers, who most likely from personal experience, are all the while is conscious of what is historically about to happen. The pervasive comedy allows us rhetorically to understand the seriousness of the events, while at the same time inviting us to dismiss them as a mere source of entertainment. And as a result, there remains the question of whether this story would have more adequately rendered itself to a straight, morally unambiguous drama rather than the discrepancy that is currently at hand with McKay’s choice to interlace a serious matter with unceasing comic relief.
Where the viewer should stand in the end is unclear because we end up rooting for characters, whose best interest unapologetically relies on a major economic disturbance. The repercussions of their actions are intentionally beyond the scope of the film, but this nonchalance attitude towards the outcome is slightly problematic when it comes to the execution of the script. Nevertheless, the dialogue is witty and the acting is convincing enough for the spectators to go along with the premise of the film without any moral inhibitions.
Ultimately, McKay’s rendition of the story about the men who profited from the great market crash of 2008 is comically infuriating and fun to watch.