The financial crash of 2008 has been explored in a few films and documentaries, but with The Big Short, director Adam McKay no doubt intends to try and make the most accessible version of the story to date. Opting for comedy and sort-of biographical drama, The Big Short is, for the most part, funny and compelling. It is also a scathing condemnation of a banking system so gone wrong that words like corrupt feel completely redundant.
Essentially the film revolves around four bigwigs in the world of high finance, each of whom predicts the collapse of the housing market. They bet against the economy to make some serious cash, but are amazed when the credit ratings of the banks continue to remain in place, despite the obvious disaster occuring around them.
What The Big Short does well is to strip down the jargon used to deliberately confuse the great unwashed, and explain it in easy terms, often accompanied by fourth wall breaking by celebrity cameos (eg “Here’s Margot Robbie in a bath to explain…”). Frankly this gets a little distracting at times, but the excellent cast, which includes Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and a stand-out Steve Carrell, makes up for that. Here seems as good a point as any to warn about f-words and a few strippers, for those who appreciate such warnings.
Where The Revenant made you experience a freezing physical ordeal and Room made you experience traumatised floods of tears, The Big Short makes you experience proper anger. This film lifts the lid on a very important topic and points the finger of blame at the scumbag bankers that destroyed so many lives, exactly where it belongs.
Or does it? Just how much you believe The Big Short to be based in truth will depend on how deeply you think this conspiracy rabbit hole goes. Frankly, I find it hard to believe the banks were failing this badly without the knowledge of the government (who obviously arranged a bail-out), so if you believe in this stuff, whatever shadow governments also knew, and so on down the line.
Whatever the truth, it does seem that despite the disaster of 2008, the banks have returned to their old tricks. A truly depressing thought, but a very entertaining movie.