The Big Short Review

The Big Short
  • Directing8.5
  • Writing8.5
  • Acting8.5

Adam McKay's The Big Short is a fast-paced slam dunk of a film, detailing the collapse of the housing bubble in a way that's both funny and depressing. Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carrell lead McKay's most well-rounded film yet.


Step Brothers and Anchorman director Adam McKay steps slightly out of his comfort zone with The Big Short — his most well-rounded film yet, proving that the comedy director can more than take on serious material, with the help of Christian Bale, Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling. The Big Short glorifies the collapse of the housing bubble in a way that’s both depressing and funny and always pumping with an unmatchable amount of energy.

The Big Short follows four men as they predict and eventually watch the collapse of the housing bubble in the mid 2000s.

Michael Burry (Christian Bale) is an unorthodox Wall Street genius, wearing his sweatpants to his office as he crunches numbers while jamming out to death metal. He’s far from your typical investor, but he has smarts like no other and they come to use when he starts digging into the housing market and discovering its flaws.

No one believes him and instead most people mock and laugh at him as he starts moving his funds around in hopes of exposing a flaw and making some serious gain.

Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) works for a bank and sees the proposed ideas of Michael as a way to make some money. He interests Mark Baum (Steve Carrell) and his team.

Baum is one of those rare honest men on Wall Street that absolutely hates seeing big banks take money from the working class, so naturally the idea that all of the banks and lenders are covering up a disastrous collapse interests him and his team highly.

The Big Short also follows several others, eventually bringing all of its four core stories together to reveal the collapse and the outcome that follows.

Adam McKay has definitely grown with The Big Short, proving that there’s so much more to him as a filmmaker than just telling simple comedies. He sort of hinted at his interest in the financial crisis with The Other Guys, but that film skimmed the surface, whereas The Big Short dives right into the source material in an energetic way that engages its audience almost instantly and rarely lets up.

McKay uses lots of quick editing and clever cuts to several popular celebrity cameos (which I won’t spoil) to both entertain and teach the audience a thing or two about Wall Street and how it’s ran.

Many will instantly compare The Big Short to Martin Scorsese‘s The Wolf of Wall Street and rightfully so. They’re both engaging films that touch up on similar subjects, but Wolf highlights and glorifies the excess of one crazed man, while The Big Short more so reveals a foreseen disaster. It educates, while entertains in ways that are hilarious and funny, but sometimes downright depressing.

Its central characters are mostly good or at least setting out to do good things, while Wolf is all about one man’s greed. The Big Short is about everyone’s greed and it walks a much finer line with its intended purpose.

And McKay hits the film out of the park, creating something that’s visually stimulating and filled with strong and reliable performances from some of the best talent around.

Ryan Gosling sticks to his usual slick and smart nature in a role that fits him just fine, but doesn’t exactly scream attention, while Christian Bale and Steve Carrell steal the film from under him.

Carrell gives the film its moral compass, exposing a character that can’t be corrupted and won’t take anyone’s shit. It’s refreshing watching Carrell take control of a role that’s smart and engrossing, instead of his usually silly self.

Bale’s character isn’t as innocent, but does reveal yet another side of Bale that we haven’t seen before. Bale’s Michael is an insecure outlier that simply wants to be listened to. He’s not trying to make friends or gain something in the business and instead is just trying to inform the world of a wrong that he found and if no one wants to listen to him then he’s going to profit off of their stupidity.

Bale physically transforms himself yet again and reminds us how committed he is to any role he touches. I doubt Bale or anyone from The Big Short will get any Oscar nominations this year, but they totally should, because Bale and Carrell deliver two of the best performances that I’ve seen all year and they shouldn’t go unnoticed.

The real winner of The Big Short is director Adam McKay. He manages to make everything work more than it rightfully should. The Big Short would have felt like a flat infomercial in the hands of anyone else, yet McKay keeps the film alive, constantly pushing the story visually and emotionally, capturing the performances and fueling them with more material.

There’s enough creative camera work and storytelling on display to keep even the most uninterested of minds busy chewing up the explanations and making their own judgments on the film’s message. Some might find The Big Short‘s lack of a one-sided moral compass to be a bit distracting, but I personally loved how McKay managed to balance on both sides of the fence.

The Big Short is one of the best end-of-the-year surprises to sneak into theaters. I doubt most will seek it out, but they definitely should. Carrell and Bale give two of their most memorable performances in years, while Gosling continues to sharpen his craft as a naturally gifted performer.

Director Adam McKay‘s ability to step out of his comfort zone and deliver a film that feels like something he’s been building up to his entire career, yet nothing like his last few films in terms of depth and development is an achievement that deserves to be celebrated. McKay is no longer a comedy director that knows just how to get laughs. I’ve been wrongfully writing him off as that for far too long and I apologize. The Big Short proves that he can tackle drama just as well, if not better than comedy. His natural interest in the material definitely allows the film to reach new heights and I hope that many others discover the film amongst a crowd of Christmas Day releases.

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