Review by Brenda Daniels
Already on circuit in South Africa, this 2008 financial crisis film was seen by myself only this week. Many viewers will of course be familiar with the story of the housing bubble that caused markets to crash eight years ago causing a fallout that spread around the world. This film continues that theme, though from a slightly different angle.
Four different groups of men, headed up by Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), Michael Burry (Christian Bale), Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) and Mark Baum (Steve Carell) see past the big corporate blather and begin to work out just how unstable and falsely inflated the housing market is. Counter to everyone else’s “wisdom” these four and their cronies bet against the housing market. Although not an easy journey to victory by any means, the four are, of course, proved right and they benefit hugely.
I liked the “educational” style of this movie. Each of the characters now and then steps out of character and addresses the camera directly, explaining what a particular concept means. Words and blurbs also appear on the screen, illuminating certain jargon for the viewer. Quite different. The four main actors also portray characters quite different to the roles they have previously filled. Steve Carell plays an emotionally strained man, Christian Bale an intelligent weirdo with one blind eye, Brad Pitt an eco-conscious recluse, and Ryan Gosling an egotistical bigmouth. None of them are really big players. And I think that’s what counts in this film. They are all appalled at the eventual fallout, a crisis that saw millions of ordinary Americans lose their homes and jobs.
It cannot be argued that these men benefitted from the downfall of others. But their dismay at what they see is portrayed as genuine, and the film ends on a sobering note. The sad thing is, The Big Short reports, the big banks and ratings agencies are back to their old tricks today. Human beings never learn it seems.
The Big Short is currently screening at Cinema Nouveau countrywide in South Africa.