The Big Short | Film review - The weirdos and outsiders who made a killing from the crash

The Big Short Steve Carell.jpg
(Image credit: Photo Jaap Buitendijk)

This is a true story.

You won’t know whether to laugh or cry when watching this dazzling dark comedy about the guys who made a killing from the global financial crash of 2008.

Based on the book by Michael Lewis (author of Liar’s Poker, Moneyball and The Blind Side), director Adam McKay’s film The Big Short shows how a ‘bunch of weirdos and outsiders’, including Christian Bale’s eccentric, heavy-metal-loving genius, Steve Carell’s furiously indignant fund manager and Ryan Gosling’s reptilian Wall Street trader, spotted what no one else did: reckless mortgage lending by greedy banks meant that the US housing market – and with it the whole world economy - was on the verge of collapse.

McKay finds entertainingly tongue-in-cheek ways of explaining the intricacies of credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations, putting The Wolf of Wall Street actress Margot Robbie in a bubble bath to expound on sub-prime mortgages, for example. And he makes the fact-based plot as gripping as a thriller.

All the same, it’s hard not to feel queasy rooting for the film’s protagonists. They were the ones who bet against the banks and won, but, in the aftermath of the financial Armageddon that ensued, we remain the losers.

Certificate 15. Runtime 130 mins. Director Adam McKay

The Big Short is available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital HD from Universal Pictures.

Jason Best

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.