Paramount               130                      R

How can what happened to the near collapse of economy in 2008 be a fun ride? Surprise! THE BIG SHORT is a history lesson about how the housing bubble burst and the banks failed. And it’s fascinating. Not only because of the awesome cast playing the characters involved, but the machinations are explained so you can pretty much understand them.

Director/Writer Adam McKay, known for comedies and as head writer for SNL says he read the book by Michael Lewis in one night…overnight. He says he couldn’t put it down! He never thought it could be a film, but had a lot of fun putting this one together. And he has the characters break away from the scene they’re in to talk to the audience. McKay likes to keep you involved. It works!

He uses Ryan Gosling as the narrator of the story. Gosling plays a composite character, not anyone in particular, who helps fill in the details. He is the power player, Jared Vennett who is looking to make a killing and a very sharp operator.

Christian Bale is Dr. Michael Burry, a neurologist bored with surgery, who takes his little nest egg and parlays it into mega bucks. He takes it a step further when he sees a major flaw in the system. Bale jumped right in to the role as the first to see the bubble coming. So he bet against the banks and that the mortgages would go bust leaving the big financial institutions holding the bag. His bet was worth billions. The actor says “I’m stunned at how a book about finances…how you could get a film like THIS (that) is so bloody good and funny.” He thinks it will shock lot of people and his weird character will shock you! By the way, the real Burry is an extra in the film.

Here’s Steve Carell in another dramatic turn as Mark Baum, one of the real players, but his name has been changed for the film. He spent a lot of time with the real Baum which McKay says was fun to watch and even got to look a little alike. Carell gained 25 pounds eating Chicago Deep Dish pizza for his turn as another brilliant trader. McKay says Carell is such a perfectionist that even when the director was satisfied, Carell would ask for more takes because he thought he thought he had more to give. Ryan Gosling, who worked with Carell before said he really respects Carell’s work ethic. Marisa Tomei plays his wife, Cynthia, and his only real anchor, especially after a family tragedy that has made him think twice about the morality of making money at the expense of others.

Brad Pitt is not only is part of the cast, but is one of the producers of the film. He plays Ben Rickert, again not the real name of the person, who hung it up because he was disgusted with the system. He comes back to help two smart, sharp, newbies who tip him off about the coming collapse. Finn Wittrock and Max Greenfield play the frantic financial whiz kids and they’re fun to watch against the very understated Pitt who barely tolerates them. Melissa Leo has a small, but pivotal role as Georgia Hale who worked for the Bond rating service and gives them a clue to how deep the corruption goes.  

The soundtrack by Nicholas Brittle is fun with lots of rock adding to the fast pace of the world of finance. So does the Cinematography by Barry Ackroyd and Editing by Hank Corwin. You’ll be trying to understand what these people do for a living while you anticipate what they’re going to do next!

Is this worth your bucks? There’s a lot to follow in this film. You may glaze over hearing all the numbers and initials of bonds, ratings, corporations, etc. Most people do. But there’s enough explaining here by an exceptional ensemble cast that you’ll catch on to what these number-crunching sharks are up to. Bale is passionate about what this film could do. “Bloody! Wouldn’t it be great if this is the straw that broke the camel’s back and really brought about some serious change, be a game changer, wouldn’t that be great!”

Has anything been fixed since this catastrophe happened? There have been attempts at regulation but there may be a chance that banks could go down the same road again. After the trillions of dollars lost in the housing collapse, your ticket to see this will be money well spent.

Betting against the US economy causing so many to lose their homes and jobs is not fun to watch. But finding out why it happened in this film is.

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