It's an admirable project to tackle. Despite being only a decade ago, the big shakedown seems little understood or denounced today. The Big Short takes as many opportunities as possible to stir up anger at the situation and the big banks responsible for it. The movie focuses on a small number of individuals who were able to see what was happening in time to take advantage of it, but although several attempts are made to humanize them, in truth there is little to admire or sympathize about them. Ryan Gosling plays a smarmy investment banker, Christian Bale is a one-eyed anti-social money manager, and Steve Carell is a hedge fund manager whose tragic past unfortunately feels more exploitative than a true empathetic story.
This is fine in and of itself. Adam McKay has previously only directed movies such as Anchorman and Talladega Nights. In fact, this is his first movie without Will Ferrell in it. An apparent passion project of his, the studio only allowed him to do it if he agreed to helm the Anchorman sequel as well.
The problem here is the editing. Filled with constant diversions to keep the audience awake, using ploys like breaking the fourth wall, bringing in celebrity cameos, intercutting several frenetic montages that feel like they were edited by student in film school, this whole movie felt like I was watching the latest version of a Spongebob Squarepants episode. There's as much movement as a Saturday morning cartoon that's expected to keep the attention span of a five-year old hyped up on Sugar Bomb Cereal.
It's a solid cast and they deserve the accolades they've been receiving. It's a surprising choice for a return to cinema for Ryan Gosling who was absent as an actor for a couple years. But he, Christian Bale, and Steve Carell all have some dramatic gristle for their acting teeth to gnaw on. Brad Pitt, whose company also produced this movie, plays the usual outsider who lends moralistic overtones to the movie.
For all those that will be tempted to see this movie after it wins for Best Picture (all the statistics are pointing that way, apparently), don't. The Big Short addresses important issues and it does its best to untangle the gnarl of technical penumbrae surrounding the crisis. However, there's too much flash and not enough cinematic substance to justify it as a movie.