There are movies that are hard to follow as their plot is so detailed and so layered that one viewing just isn't enough. A mildly-recent example of this is Inherent Vice. It's a film I love to pieces, but the first couple of viewings I was just so incredibly lost. It drew me back in as I wanted to return to these characters and this situation and figure out just what I was missing. Then there are movies that are hard to follow because there's just so much information being handed to the audience and so it becomes impossible to keep up. The Big Short is one of these, and the topic of conversation isn't even interesting enough to make me want to come back in the not too distant future.
The plot of this film can be described in two ways. There's a complex version where I discuss all the ins and outs of why these characters are doing the things they're doing, or there's a simple version, which is the one I'm about to tell you. Let me just say, this plot sounds very simple and lacking in any sort of depth, but when you see the film, you'll know it's the exact opposite. They're going to throw so much plot at you that you won't know what to do with it. But anyway, The Big Short follows the story of Michael Burry (Christian Bale), Mark Baum (Steve Carell) and Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling). The three of them are sick and tired of the ways the bank scams people and so, when an opportunity to make money off of the bank's mistakes arrises, they take it.
The Big Short is a movie that spends a lot of its time discussing money, stocks and the global economy, and for someone not overly familiar with the subject matter, such as myself, this is a lot of information to take in. A good chunk of this film is dedicated to familiarising the audience with what these characters are getting up to, and it's easy to fall behind. The characters are speaking fast, information is being thrown around 24/7 and it's hard to follow. I spent a great deal of this movie in utter confusion, but I will admit, the film does its best to try and bring you back up to speed, whether this be through fourth wall breaks or celebrity cameos, but I never felt like I understood exactly what was going on.
This film is directed by Adam McKay, a director typically known for making goofball comedies, including Anchorman and Step Brothers. The Big Short is McKay's first serious movie, and to my surprise, he nails it. The screenplay is a little crowded, but his direction is wonderful, transitioning really well from comedy to drama and getting his name out there as a more serious director. There's moments of comedy, sure, but it's safe to say this film isn't all giggles. His only flaw in direction is his use of the camera. It's not bad, per say, but it's constantly flying all over the place, never sure what it wants to be doing. There are some good shots and there are also some terrible shots.
From Brad Pitt to Steve Carell to Ryan Gosling, the performances in this movie are all exceptional. Christian Bale is easily the stand out here, giving a performance so different to any of the performances he's given before. From American Psycho to The Machinist to Batman, Bale truly is a versatile actor, and he's back with a vengeance in this movie. He's the only actor in this movie who received a nomination at the Oscar's this year and while I don't think he will win, he sure does deserve that nomination, that's for sure.
To sum up, The Big Short is an information overload with hit and miss cinematography, although the performances are all great and Adam McKay made a smooth transition from comedy to drama. I'm not sure exactly what went on, but I am sure that I had fun with it.
3 1/2 Stars