It must have been very hard to pitch the big short to a studio when it could be considered a boring subject. They would not expect anyone to be interested in a movie about the financial crisis, especially when it’s not produced as a gritty All The President’s Men style investigative journalism piece.
Harder still when you have a director known more for his out and out Will Ferrell comedies like Anchorman. But, aside from some areas where the audio mix could have been louder during some muffled dialogue, it works as a quirky look at a terrifying subject. It perhaps tries a little too hard to make its subject accessible with the novelty cut-aways to Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez or that chef, but it’s effective. The onscreen captions, voiceovers and characters breaking the fourth wall gives you just enough information to cling to if you’re as baffled by this kind of stuff as the bankers hope.
It manages to convey just the right building of tension and frustration while all the time achieving the madness of making you root for characters who are profiting from the bank’s downfall. At least, they are presented as taking on the banks at their own game, rather than accelerating the misery that’s heaped on the world.
There are some very strong performances here, notably Steve Carell on fine form being manic without being whacky. Christian Bale also suits his role quite well though it strays slightly into caricature at times.
The real sting in the tail comes with the realisation that there were no mass convictions for any of what happened. This is certainly not a film that demands a sequel, though it is made frighteningly clear that nothing has happened to prevent it all beginning again.