The Big Short — film review: ‘Barbed, often brilliant’

Wall Street’s culture of derivatives is the target of this clever comedy-drama
Christian Bale in 'The Big Short'

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As an FT film critic I’d be writing at greater length about The Big Short if the film hadn’t already been taken to its heart by the pink paper. I repeat in the UK what a colleague pronounced from the US opening. This is a barbed, often brilliant comedy drama, directed and co-scripted (with Charles Randolph) by Adam Anchorman McKay from Michael Lewis’s same-name book about the build-up to the banking crisis.

Lewis’s “heroes just for one day” — to give them a Bowie benediction — were the rebel brokers who bet against the banks in the prelude to 2008. They detected the death bug in Wall Street’s culture of derivatives, CDOs and institutionalised fraudulence. A film on this subject could still have gone wrong, even with actors such as Christian Bale (superb), Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell and Brad Pitt. It does go wrong, a little, with Pitt. When you’re an actor/producer/demigod you just have to give yourself the first pious speech out of the film’s trap.

Later the pious speeches start multiplying. But audiences should disregard deathbed contritions. Before it gets saintly The Big Short is a big, clever chortle, full of sardonic insights into a time of woe. And with these characters they’re insider insights.

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