The Big Short – Adam McKay

The Big Short starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt.

The Big Short starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt.
Photo Credit: Jaap Buitendijk / Paramount Pictures

Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt. Could you ask for a better cast? If the answer is yes, then add Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo,  Hamish Linklater, and Jeremy Strong and you’ve got The Big Short.  Between six of the lead actors, there are 6 Oscars and 9 Oscar nominations, so it’s not surprising that this movie has already done very well. We’re well into awards season now, and although The Big Short did not walk away a winner, it was nominated for 4 Golden Globes in the two male acting categories, adapted screenplay, and best picture. It still has another chance in late February with its 5 Academy Award nominations (Editing, Screenplay, Actor, Directing, and Best Picture).

This movie takes a very complex topic – the 2008 financial crisis – and attempts to explain it in a way that the average adult can understand. There are so many moving parts and economics isn’t everyone’s strong suit, so it does it’s best (complete with various celebrities trying to dumb it down for us) and mostly succeeds.  Regardless of whether you understand all the intricacies and terminology or not, you’ll still walk away from it feeling sick and cheated – and that’s the whole point.

The movie is centralized around three different groups of men who notice something no one else did – that the U.S housing market was built on a bubble, and that bubble was going to burst. Michael Burry, the one guy who discovered it all is played by Christian Bale. His quick actions sparked the interest of the other teams, who quickly began doing their own investigations. These teams included FrontPoint Partners, lead by Mark Baum (an amazing performance by Steve Carell) and two young guys with a hedge fund start up. They all go about finding a way to make money off of the greed, corruption, and general stupidity of the banks – they bet against the housing market.

The Big Short is filmed in a bit of a quirky way that may annoy you in the first 10 minutes but you’ll quickly get over it and later recognize it for its brilliance. It’s like you’re watching real life unfold in front of you, except you know what’s going to happen. Quick flashes of real images and video serve as a reminder of how things changed so quickly. The script is nothing short of genius and the dialogue is quick-witted and blunt. The fourth wall is broken a number of times, but it works in every case and doesn’t affect the fluidity of the film, in fact, it makes it more real. Steve Carell outshines everyone else and it is likely one of the best performances of his career to date. Unfortunately his performance was not acknowledged by The Academy and Christian Bale was nominated for Best Actor instead. He won’t win, but it’s still a nice nod in his direction. Considering Adam McKay’s previous claims to fame included Anchorman and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, the Best Director nomination is a big step in the right direction for him.

It’s definitely worth a watch, but the target audience for this movie is likely 25+… make that 40+ in order to really identify with what the collapse of the U.S. housing market did to the world. The younger generations will find the fast dialogue amusing, the topic informative, and the forecast for the future slightly troubling, but they won’t have the same appreciation for the utter stupidity that ended up costing tons of people their jobs and their life savings.

The Big Short is still playing in some theatres but is mostly gone from the rotation. It still managed to pull in over $100M (worldwide) since its release in December 2015.

Watch the official trailer here:

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Exodus: Gods and Kings – Ridley Scott

Exodus: Gods and Kings starring Christian Bale,  Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Sigourney Weaver, and Ben Kingsley 20th Century Fox

Exodus: Gods and Kings starring Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton
(20th Century Fox)

Epic in scale, but lacking in passion and conviction, Exodus: Gods and Kings is directed by Ridley Scott and stars Christian Bale as Moses, the adopted Egyptian prince and prophet who saves the Israelites. The story of Moses is captured in the Bible’s Book of Exodus, hence the movie’s name, which is Hebrew for “going out”. His story is essentially the story of how the Israelites escaped from Egypt and the perilous life of slavery by following him on a treacherous journey through the mountains and across the Red Sea.

As a viewer with no religious or historical background, Exodus: Gods and Kings will be intriguing but also a little confusing as the background of Moses’ upbringing is skimmed over and not properly explained. Watching as an individual who is well-versed in the Biblical story and other theatrical interpretations of it, the movie will be frustrating and, aside from the impressive CGI, it will be boring. While the older theatrical versions of the story of Moses for the most part interpreted the Bible literally (i.e. the burning bush, the plagues, and the parting of the Red Sea), Exodus: Gods and Kings actually attempts to make some aspects of the story more realistic and believable for the 21st century audience; and in this, it succeeds. The visual effects were refreshing in the sense that they were not completely over-the-top and mostly stayed within the realm of the believable. Despite this, however, it never truly meets expectations and the rather abrupt ending leaves one feeling impassive regarding the 150 minute experience.

It is quite rare that an animated movie, namely Disney’s The Prince of Egypt (1998 – animated), can do a better job at explaining this historical event and provoke more emotion with respect to the main character, but in this case it’s true. Even 1956’s The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston seemed more true to the story and put its 220 minutes to relatively good use.

As movie-goers have come to expect a great performance from Christian Bale, the fact that he is convincing and quite good in the role of Moses just isn’t enough of a reason to watch the movie. His stellar performances are typically enough to carry a bad movie and appeal to audiences who appreciate the art, but due to the movie’s grand scale and lack of depth, it simply isn’t the case here. Unfortunately, this film missed the mark and will leave most viewers disappointed and underwhelmed.

Exodus: Gods and Kings was released in theatres in December 2014 and is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

As published on Examiner.com