"The Big Short" is a gripping movie from start to finish, populated with fascinating characters. Christian Bale plays Michael Burry, a hedge fund manager who figures out the U.S. housing market is unstable. He realizes he can make a massive profit if he creates a credit default swap market (basically betting that the housing market is going to collapse) and convinces the banks to allow him to do so.
Separately, Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), a trader for Deutsche Bank and Mark Baum (Steve Carell), another hedge fund manager and outspoken moral crusader, hear about what Burry is up to and also invest.
Finally, Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Whitrock), founders and partners in an up and coming hedge fund, also stumble onto Burry's investment and look to dive in. Due to their lack of experience and funds, they rope their next door neighbor into their scheme. Luckily, that neighbor is Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), an ex-trader with Deutsche Bank who knows exactly how to break through the glass ceiling.
Watching these separate groups all stumbling across the same horrifying truth is more fun than it might seem. At times, "The Big Short" almost plays like an "Oceans" movie, where all of the characters are five steps ahead of the audience and not patient enough to wait.
Christian Bale once again shows his versatility in a role that is somehow different than anything he has done before, but also subdued and underplayed. However, Steve Carell has "Foxcatcher" problems here. Although his performance is OK, it is still too saddled with affected mannerisms and a goofy accent to push Mark Baum into the realm of three-dimensionality. Ultimately, the performance feels more like a decent Saturday Night Live character than anything.
The film is infuriatingly angry about what the banks and the eventual bailout did to this country, which makes the point of view of the film even more deliciously pessimistic. Every single character in this film is not out to save the world. They have no plans to share with anyone that the economy is about to collapse and that millions of Americans are about to lose their homes and savings. In fact, all of these characters bet millions of dollars that it would happen.
Director and co-screenwriter Adam McKay knows how charismatic these actors are and how audiences are trained to root for them. The dichotomy between what these people are actually doing and how much fun it is to watch them do it is brilliant.
"The Big Short" is teaching the country about what happened without any repercussions for those responsible.
"The Big Short"
Dir. Adam McKay
Now playing at Old Mill Stadium