Movie review: The Big Short
Millions, billions and trillions of dollars are the scary sums that feature in this razor-sharp modern morality tale, snappily narrated by the sharpest dresser in Hollywood. On this occasion, Mr Ryan Gosling takes a bow as perma-tanned Jared Vennett, a bond salesman at Deutsche Bank, who wisecracks his way through this gripping satire on the shadiest corners of the cynical money markets.
If you ever asked the question in the noughties, why did nobody see this worldwide economic crisis coming, then you were ahead of the game. The answer is that a few people did. They were opposing an avaricious army lining their pockets or living it up on the proceeds of their ill-gotten gains, however. Bankers, once boring, were bankrolled to greed and excess, by a series of sharp manoeuvres, until their house of credit cards crashed.
They were gamblers of the most devious sort, cashing in on the backs of the poor, the gullible and the worst defaulters on debt. Meanwhile the balancing act of linking together good mortgage deals with bad sub-prime arrangements was the road to hell for every institution involved.
Hedge fund manager Michael Burry (Christian Bale) crunched the numbers in 2005 and bet against the housing market, ultimately proving to be correct, but being reviled by the investors who took a gamble with him: “It’s a time bomb and I want to short it.” It proved more long-term than he or they had anticipated.
Vennett then jumped on Burry’s bandwagon and inexperienced investors Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) also put their chips on the table. They enlisted the help of retired banker Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) to bale out again, as the giant US banks started to fall like dominoes.
Mark Baum (Steve Carell) is a cynical and maverick voice of dissent as a hedge fund manager, with a team including Vinnie Daniel, a mesmerising gum-chewing performance by Jeremy Strong and ‘babes’ Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez make fleeting contributions.
Pacy, witty, fast and furious it has just won top prize at the Producers Guild of America (PGA) awards. It’s a boost for Academy prospects, as PGA has predicted the best picture Oscar for the past eight years. Reminiscent of Glengarry, Glen Ross, set in the recession of the 1990s, another big award-winner – The Big Short is long on laughs and bang on the money.
by Liz Kennedy
The Big Short (130 minutes) is a 15 certificate.