|'Don't worry. Ryan Gosling is here to introduce Margot Robbie in a bubble bath to explain. Literally. Feel like you're being treated like an idiot yet? That feeling lasts for one hundred and thirty minutes.'|
'Anger' is a word that has been used a lot when discussing The Big Short and indeed you can see why. This is an angry film, a film almost equal parts annoyed at the 2007/2008 financial crash in the United States as it as with its own subjects' ability to make money from said crisis, to the anger it reserves for you; the reader or viewer who still doesn't quite understand what happened and won't make the effort to either.
Yes, that's right, The Big Short is a film so confident in its own ability to entertain that it has no problem telling you off, speaking to you in condescending tones and, more often than not, breaking the fourth wall so that it can be damn sure you don't mistake its hectoring for mild displeasure. Don't quite get derivatives? Don't worry. Ryan Gosling is here to introduce Margot Robbie in a bubble bath to explain. Literally. That's what he says. 'Here's Margot Robbie in a bubble bath to explain'. Feel like you're being treated like an idiot yet? That feeling lasts for one hundred and thirty minutes.
The film though is entertaining enough to get away with it and, what's more, if we're all being really honest, then we do kind of deserve this picture book explanation of one of the most important and destructive economic and political events of our time. Based on the book by Michael Lewis (who also wrote Moneyball and many other fantastic non-fiction books), The Big Short is a lesson in the financial crisis from an excellent business mind, filtered through the sensibility of Anchorman director Adam McKay. Yes, this is education, a fictionalised version of the equally excellent Inside Job, but it will also take you to a strip club within the opening ten minutes.
The main vehicle for this message is an outstanding performance from Steve Carell as Mark Baum, a reluctantly expert investor who hates Wall Street and all that it stands for. Baum is us, incredulous as he sits in a restaurant listening to another investor explain how he makes money on selling investments he knows are bad. Carell's incredulity bounces off Gosling's Jared Vennett, the two fulfilling the chemistry they displayed in the deeply flawed Crazy, Stupid, Love, one egging the other on as both watch the car crash through simultaneous guilty excitement and disbelief. Gosling's 'I'm jacked to the tiiits!' declaration is - and forgive me for writing this - the most gif-able thing you'll see all year.
Strong support comes in the shape of Brad Pitt, who plays zen master to two young investors and Christian Bale, as the man who first spotted the problem with sub-prime mortgages and made money because of it. That all of the main characters do this is potentially a problem for The Big Short's moralistic stance but again, like the lecturing, it gets away with it because of just how perverted it proves the system to be. The way of doing this is perhaps a little obvious. The personification of the ratings agency is introduced to us wearing dark glasses. The personification of the regulatory authority is introduced to us attempting to get into bed with a banker. You can see where it's going and, if you can't, it will draw you a map in crayola.
But again and again, the film proves itself so entertaining, so funny and just so damn infuriatingly right, that it is all too easy to forget its short-comings and become entirely sucked in by its gleefully antagonist attack on the banks, the regulator and the whole charade around them. You'll be both entertained, educated and shocked and that, you suspect, is exactly how McKay wants you to feel.
The Big Short is in UK cinemas from Friday 22nd January.