Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Big Short (2015)

Director: Adam McKay
Writers:  Charles Randolph, Adam McKay, Michael Lewis (Book)
Cast:       Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt


Four outsiders in the world of high-finance who predicted the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s decide to take on the  big banks for their lack of foresight and greed.

The film is an adaptation of Michael Lewis' book with the same name and I had read that book some years back. It is not a book that you would count on to get adapted into a film because of the complexity that one associates with terms like CDOs, CDSs, FICO rating and to top it off- fucking synthetic CDOs. The last one is something I didn't quite understand while reading the book but the film managed to do a better job of it with the help of the unusual combination of Behavioral scientist Richard Thaler and Selena Gomez. CDOs are explained by Margot Robbie in a bathtub. The greatest achievement of the film is the blatant way in which expositions are done with the help of celebrities from different fields and even Anthony Bourdain makes an appearance. They are done with great humor and it was anyway an immensely humorous book to begin with. 

The characters in it are- a doctor turned hedge fund manager with a glass eye and Asperger's Syndrome (Christian Bale), an outspoken hedge fund manager with a sense of righteousness (Steve Carell), a cynical and smug Deutsche Bank trader (Ryan Gosling) and couple of young guys who started a fund from their garage. In the film the latter two are getting help from an ex-trader, a role played by Brad Pitt whose production company, Plan B, acquired the rights for the book. His role is something that has been added purely for the film and they use the real-life name of Dr. Michael Burry for the Christian Bale character in the film as well. A different name to Steve Eisman is used for the character played by Steve Carell and they use that as license to add a story invented for the film concerning a brother of his who committed suicide. There is some preaching done regarding the wall street in the film, chiefly from the characters played by Carell and Pitt. Normally I would have hated that but the film manages to do it in a very effective manner. You won't probably get a better quote this year than the 'Then they blamed immigrants and poor' one from this film. It is a stellar job from all concerning in terms of performances and the film ends with Led Zeppelin's 'When the Levee Breaks' during the end credits, a very good choice. It is filmed with rapid cuts and I will try to watch it on a big screen if it comes here. 

As far as sub-prime crisis films are concerned, the comparisons would be with the Oscar winning documentary 'Inside Job' and JC Chandor film 'Margin Call', which was more of character driven drama. This one manages to marry both of them since it does all the explaining featured in the first one and also has all the drama of the latter while being enormously funny. All three of them are must-watches. I actually didn't have high hopes for 'The Big Short' since I am not a big fan of Adam McKay's 'Anchorman'. It has been received very well critically and I do hope it does well commercially as well. It has got the cast to get the arses on seats.

Rating: 4/5 (Might increase it when I watch it on a better quality print)

Rating on rewatch: 4.5/5