Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Movie Review: The Big Short

This is a glorious mess of a movie, a fun-with-a-brain story of three groups of investment guys who all come to the same conclusion about the housing mortgage finance industry circa 2006, namely that this turkey's about to blow.  The script is full of snappy dialogue, like something Quentin Tarantino might have written twenty five years ago, and the all-star cast delivers it with aplomb.  Small asides delivered by guest commentators to help the audience keep up with the financial jargon are simultaneously jarring, humorous, and very welcome.

About the cast, Steve Carell's barely-in-control crusader carries the movie.  It's not an explicitly comedic role, but the way Carell plays it we can see the humor and goodness in the character, rather than just labeling him a jerk.  The rest of the cast does a fine job too, and while Christian Bale got top billing, Carell steals the show.

One expectation I had going in, maybe it was implied in the trailer, was that these three investment teams would somehow merge into one supergroup, and go in sort of an Oceans 11 direction.  Didn't happen.  The story jumps from one group to the other, and while they occasionally cross paths along the way, it is three separate tales showing the debacle from three different angles.  It's an effective technique, but just don't expect some grand unification of the cast.  Real life didn't happen that way, and neither does this movie.

Finally, there are some catchphrases taken from today's political situation thrown in, like soy sauce on top of waffles.  They're unwelcome, out of place, and mar an otherwise fine film.  In ten years the script writer will regret those lines, and in the here and now they knock a viewer out of the story, and knock a half star off the movie's overall rating.

Bottom line: 3 stars out of 4.  This is one of those films like Wag the Dog that looks behind the curtain and explains the what and how of a complex situation while simultaneously entertaining a smart audience.

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