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ARTS & CULTUREFILM REVIEW
The Big Short: Pessimists Who Knew Too Much
Kim Da Hyun  |  byejen@korea.ac.kr
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승인 2016.04.08  17:22:39
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 An enthralling mix of quirky humor, flaming rage, and bitter lethargy, The Big Short is one of the best blockbusters of 2015. From the writers of Anchorman and Anchorman 2, The Big Short, the 88th Oscar winner for Best Adapted Screenplay and nominated in four other categories, delivers with solid irony and scalding humor a real life American tale. It tells the story of the terrible consequences of the housing bubble collapse as witnessed by a handful of extremely pessimistic outsiders in the high finance world with cameos from celebrities such as Selena Gomez and Margot Robbie. 

The title of the film speaks for itself. A bunch of skeptics saw that the emperor had no clothes, that the housing market in the United States (U.S.) was a bubble that would soon collapse, made very large bets on that collapse by shorting the housing market, and those bets paid off very, very well. The film is based on a non-fiction book of the same name by Michael Lewis. It was directed by Adam McKay and its cinematography was overseen by Barry Ackroyd. The movie stars A-list actors including Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, and Brad Pitt.

Before watching the film, some may assume that since McKay’s previous movies were comedies, often featuring his pal Will Farrell, that he wouldn't be able to handle the serious subject matter of The Big Short. They were mistaken. The Big Short is like a sharp blow to the abdomen, the kind of movie that leaves moviegoers deep in thought by the time the credits roll in. Most likely, those thoughts won’t be pleasant ones.

 

   
▲ A scene from The Big Short. Provided by postgazette.com.

The Big Short opens like many of McKay’s other previous big screen works—with a quotation, an acerbic remark by Mark Twain: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” That just about sums up what is really behind this Oscar winner. The Big Short does not shy away from pointing fingers at who was really behind the American financial crisis precipitated by the end of the housing boom.

Christian Bale stars as Michael Burry, the first person to see the problems with the housing market and the first to short it, actually creating a market for such shorts. Burry, who has Asperger's syndrome, is a one-eyed hedge fund manager who walks around his office barefoot, casually dressed in shorts and an old t-shirt. He cranks speed metal rock in his office to cope with his dark thoughts. He also, due to his Asperger's, has a way of putting people off without meaning to by saying things like, “Nice haircut, did you do it yourself?”

Mark Baum (Steve Carrell) has a severe case of anger management issues and a fervid and vocal hatred for big financial institutions, along with a sad history of losing his brother to a tragic suicide. Underneath his hard, angry shell, there is a soft, mushy core that cannot stop caring about others and reacting to social injustices in a loud, vociferous way. Jamie (Finn Wittrock) and Charlie (John Magaro) are financial newbies, yet something about them—their passion and well-meant recklessness—makes viewers hope they fulfill their ambition of making it big on Wall Street. 

 

   
▲ Money. Provided by windows10themetop10.blogspot.com.

Despite its gloomy subject matter, The Big Short is filled with deliciously witty humor. One very funny moment is during the scene where the investment analysts checking out the housing market in South Florida come upon an abandoned home now inhabited by an alligator. Banker Jared Vennett’s (Ryan Gosling) hilariously cruel treatment of his assistants is also a source of laughs.

For those who need a good laugh and also secretly enjoy becoming angry over the frustrating reality of how today’s economy is being run, The Big Short is a must watch. For those who want to learn in an extremely entertaining way how America’s housing market came crashing down in 2008, this is also a must watch. All in all, it is easy to recommend The Big Short.

Movie Information
Title: The Big Short (2015)
Rating: R for mature language and some sexuality/nudity
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 2 hours 10 minutes
Director: Adam McKay
Writers: Adam McKay and Charles Randolph

   
▲ A scene from the movie. Provided by elle.com.
   
▲ A scene from the film. Provided by vanityfair.com.
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