I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this film. As usual, I didn’t read the book, but I did have a rather up-close and personal experience with the real life fallout of both the financial and real estate market collapses depicted in the film. I have also enjoyed the previous works of both Director Adam McKay(Tim and Eric, Step Brothers), and the fantastic ensemble of actors including Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, and Marisa Tomei.
As I started watching the film on opening week, I couldn’t help but notice the theater was practically empty. I didn’t know whether to attribute this lackluster turnout to Star Wars : The Force Awakens drawing away customers, or just general lack of interest in such an intimidating and dry subject matter. It certainly wasn’t because this was a bad movie – it was actually pretty damn outstanding. It received a well-deserved 86 on Rotten Tomatoes. So, at least critics could vouch for the quality being served up.
This was a delicate tightrope to walk. Adam McKay made some rather bold choices in his quest to pull off explaining the intricate, yet imminently pertinent nuances of how this whole mess went down – while simultaneously not boring his audience to tears. He achieved this balance by interjecting sexy and interesting celebrities (Selena Gomez, Margot Robbie) into the middle of the film, and having them explain key technical details in laymen’s terms and palatable analogies. Although Selena’s cameo actually ended up backfiring on me, and proved to be one of the only scenes where I had an inexplicable temporary mental blackout.
Adam also utilized the Zach Morris technique by having Ryan Gosling’s character (Jared Vennett) basically narrate and speak directly to the camera in the middle of scenes. This helped clarify exactly what the audience needed to understand a great deal, as Gosling had both the most entertaining character in Vennett, and best performance given in the film. These risky bets put forth by McKay proved to be the equivalent of buying a bunch of credit default swaps in late 2006 – massive ROI realized in due time.
Christian Bale playing Dr. Michael Burry was a nice vacation from his uncomfortably silly Batman voice, and a welcomed return to his character comfort zone of weirdo, pseudo-genius, headphone-wearing sociopaths. He made me glow with delight as I watched him dust off his subtly powerful acting chops. The supporting cast, Brat Pitt, and Steve Carell were all solid as well. Alas, I don’t feel like exerting much effort in describing all that, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
There is an important point addressed at the beginning of the film. Which is something to the effect of – the financial industry creates smokescreens and erects barriers to entry for common folks in the form of an aggressive, misogynist culture who use intimidating and convoluted language in order to never allow their customers to realize how little they actually do for them. And, more importantly, not allow anyone to discover how much criminal activity and unadulterated fleecing of the innocent is actually taking place behind those closed doors. This language and intimidation is also unfortunately a hurdle this film must clear in order to properly broadcast its important message : These banks are fucking balls-out scumbag criminals of the highest order. And since none of them got punished the first time, you can bet your pretty little house they are going to do it again. Oh wait, you probably did bet the preponderance of your net worth using your house, 401k, and pension as collateral against this kind of thing ever happening again. Maybe spending $6.00 on a matinée will be the most sage investment you ever make.
Overall Rating : 8.9/10