If you think a film about the near financial market collapse of 2007/2008 would have to be a dry, boring, numbers filled tutorial, you are in for a pleasant (yet disturbing) ride with THE BIG SHORT.
Christian Bale plays against type as Michael Burry, a brilliant & eccentric hedge fund manager that sees numbers in the housing market that signal an almost sure collapse. He begins investing heavily against the market, setting up a vast financial reward for his investors and retirees IF the housing market collapses.
At the same time, Jared Vennett at Deutschebank discovers what Burry is doing and begins looking for rich partners to jump in with him to also bet on a disaster. Vennett is played with venomous smarm by Ryan Gosling, who also serves as our story's narrator, dripping sarcasm and greed.
One of Vennett's calls goes to a wrong number, where Mark Baum (Steve Carrell) and his team jump on what is said on the mis-dialed incoming call and begin to look at the opportunity themselves. Baum hates the system, feels betrayed by it, but is starving for an opportunity to benefit from its crash.
Carrell is great here in a dramatic role, wrestling with his desire for revenge and the ultimate impact on millions of families if he is proven right.
Brad Pitt stars as an ostracized financial wizard helping two young investors and is very good. Several guest stars like Anthony Bourdain and Margot Robbie take a moment throughout the film to explain complicated financial terms and activities in layman's terms.
If you have to understand the complexities of the banking world, having Margot lay it our for you while drinking champagne in a bubble bath is NOT a horrible way to learn.
There are plenty of clever storytelling techniques like that sprinkled through the film, very well directed by Adam McKay, who graduates from fun comedy films like "Stepbrothers" and "Anchorman" to a terrific dramatic turn at bat.
Funny, sad, powerful and sobering, THE BIG SHORT marks the second time producer Brad Pitt has brought a seemingly "unfilmable" novel to the screen, matching "Moneyball" a few years ago.
As the film unlocks fact after fact about the banking collapse, it becomes clear that the government and the banks are equally responsible. The most sobering moments occur as the film wraps and you realize that we are bound to repeat our mistakes.
This is a smart, exciting and important film. THE BIG SHORT is long on talent and profits with a well deserved A.