As humans, we always assume that our good fortunes are going to last. Part of that is because we usually view a good present as an auspicious sign, whilst ignoring the possibility of it changing for the worse in the future. Such ignorance routinely forces most people to go to whatever lengths necessary to maintain their fortuitous positions for as long as they can. The ensuing desperation is usually among the bigger driving forces for corruption or lack of accountability to fester in any part of our society. As time goes on, though, the strain that continued corruption or desperation takes will inevitably lead to a severe downturn of fortune for everyone involved. For proof, one only needs to look at the 2008 recession, the subject of one of the season’s biggest movies, The Big Short.
The film is based on Michael Lewis’ book of the same name, and tackles the debt crisis through analyzing the steps undertaken by many investors who managed to predict the crisis before it happened. In short, pun unintended, the investors presented in the movie bet large sums of money against the American housing and banking systems through utilizing data that showed them that all is not well with the status quo. These investors succeeded, and made tremendous amounts of money because of it, for two simple reasons: they looked instead of blindly trusting the system and subsequently trusted their logic in the midst of unrelenting criticism.
The Big Short marks Adam McKay’s, director of both Anchorman movies, first foray into movies without longtime collaborator, Will Ferrell. It has an ensemble cast that features a who’s who of Hollywood leading men that includes Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, and Steve Carell. This strong and large cast forces the movie to alternate between several different sides of the same story, as the investors continued to fight the same fight on different fronts. Given the names involved, it comes as no surprise that the acting performances in this picture are all first rate. Carell is especially enchanting, stealing every single scene that he’s in, for his portrayal of snarky, hedge-fund manager, Mark Baum, a character best described as arguably the movie’s moral compass. Consequently, we personally believe that Carell was more worthy of the Academy Award nomination that Bale received as part of the movie, even though both were as stellar as ever.
The most common criticism levied at the movie is that, despite its straightforward narrative arc, the economic terms used are often too hard for people without an economics or business background to fully comprehend. As it is illustrated in the film, however, using such criticism is a symbol of one not looking hard enough at the bigger picture. While The Big Short could be viewed as a slightly dramatized documentary for some, McKay’s expert direction utilizes these true events to delve deep into how profit-maximization imperatively brings about corruption and ineptitude; even though the movie’s tone is humorous and highly sarcastic, its elements are anything but. The film clandestinely asks us about the lengths some will take to prove they’re right, what it’s actually worth to be right, and how much some are willing to trust in their logic in the face of continued mockery of their sanity. The most important question that the movie presents, though, is how much faith should one have in any system of society. The Big Short unflinchingly illustrates that blind faith in any system will invariably lead to dire consequences, as that presents a clear opportunity for the people at the top to consolidate their position. After all, it is human nature to continuously maximize one’s fortunes.
Through that scope, The Big Short is one of this year’s must-watch pictures not only for the importance of its message, but also for its undeniable wit in making such dark material such an entertaining and griping watch. Contrary to what you might’ve heard, it is not an economics-based movie; it is a morality-based one. As the movie eloquently put it, people often say that poetry is a reflection of truth, and most people hate poetry. While it is often said that ignorance is bliss, The Big Short shows that it is indeed bliss, but only for a while.