Review: ‘The Big Short’ is Manic, Panicked & Hilarious

I guess you’ve just gotta laugh at the wholesale reckless looting of a nation, right? As evidenced by The Wolf of Wall Street, corporate excesses can make for hilarious cinema, so director Adam McKay (Anchorman, The Other Guys) seems a solid fit for this true tale of financial outsiders twigging to the imminent collapse of the US housing market. There’s a lot more going on with The Big Short, though. The laughs may be plentiful, but this is as much chilling drama as financial farce, and the film’s single biggest triumph lies in making arcane financial mumbo jumbo understandable and watchable.

McKay employs all manner of devices in service of the film (and the limits of audience attention spans), from fourth-wall-breaking cameos to editing that unsettles by illogically cutting back and forth in out-of-sync conversations. He’s swinging for the fences in an effort to entertain, educate, and plain fucking terrify, and while the results may not be conventional, The Big Short successfully conveys appropriate levels of mania, panic and hilarity while maintaining a moral standpoint missing from other Wall Street tales.

The Big Short’s aided and abetted by superb performances, with Steve Carell in Foxcatcher form; Christian Bale going heavy metal method in learning how to play drums to Pantera’s By Demons Be Driven; and Ryan Gosling embodying salesman slimeball. Don’t let the subject matter put you off, this is a highly entertaining watch that’s full of belly laughs, but will nevertheless see you leaving the cinema feeling uncomfortable about what you’ve just watched. In doing so, McKay has pulled off a swindle of his own – a splendid, thought-provoking, filmmaking achievement.

‘The Big Short’ movie times