January 22nd 2016 releases

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It’s testament to the work of the Police when faced with witness who give descriptions of suspects as being very tall, approximately four foot eleven, bald with a side parting and clean shaven with a full hipster beard so we can only presume that the same witness is responsible for titling the new Brad Pitt produced release  ‘The Big Short’. In fairness though a short is actually a financial term used by city traders and The Big Short refers to the big scandal that engulfed the US markets taking down the long standing financial houses notably Lehman Brothers who’d been around for over a hundred years until then.

Films about the stock market are usually a hard sell with even films like ‘Wall St’ relying more on grandstanding performances with Michael Douglas spouting his ‘Greed is Good’ speech at the centre of a not particularly enthralling film in retrospect and its belated sequel ‘Money Never Sleeps’ never quite catching the zeitgeist and proving even less interesting with atmosphere vacuum Shia Lebeouf cast in the Charlie Sheen role.  ‘Boiler Room’ in 2000 was interesting if only to see Vin Diesel do some acting before he turned to fast car driving and muttering in a voice so low it was audible only to dogs.

‘The Big Short’ follows three individuals Dr Burry played brilliantly by Christian Bale as an ex medic whose eye for numbers has led him to working as a trade analyst spotting an anomaly in the mortgage market  several years before the 2008 crash and takes his companies assets and bets the whole house on what he believes is about to happen much to the disbelief of his boss.

Next is Steve Carrell as Mark Baum  a deeply cynical trader entirely suspicious of the system who finds his own small company taken along for the ride by Ryan Goslings character and his knowledge of where he sees the mortgage market going.

Lastly there’s two fund managers who run their company from their garage and with the help of retired and disillusioned ex banker Brad Pitt also invest in an about to burst market bubble

With the whole story inexorably heading towards a conference held in Vegas there s a grim sense of irony as the real life market gamble crash in 2008 is just around the corner.

This inevitability of what is about to happen is lifted by some exceptionally funny moments and for most of us who barely know the interest rate on an ISA account the jargon is explained in stand alone scenes introduced by a direct address to camera. ‘Here’s Margot Robbie in a bubble bath drinking champagne to explain what shorting the market is’ and we cut to Margot Robbie doing exactly that. These become ever more bizarre with the set up for the climax explained by chubby cheeked popster Selena Gomez sitting with a professor of economics at a roulette table to explain in layman terms what is happening.

It’s this quirkiness which is directly attributable to the director Adam McKay – hardly a household name but his other films include several of the better Will Ferrel comedies including ‘Anchorman’ and here his comedy chops mark the film out from the run of the mill with actors addressing the audience directly and at time the narrators voice even confessing that the scene we’ve just watched never happened and has been concocted purely for dramatic licence.

Best of all though are the performances led by Steve Carrel in probably the sweariest role we’ll ever see him in  consumed with a quest for the truth and racked with guilt over his brothers suicide- this is another strong dramatic role after last years ‘Foxcatcher’  and is perhaps a sign that he wants to leave his comedic roles behind him a la Robin Williams and Jim Carrey attempted at one point in their careers.  Equally good is Christian Bale in a role unlike anything he’s done before as a socially awkward dysfunctional Dr whose turned to finance where he shows a metier for spotting disaster years in advance. He’s utterly compelling to watch especially in his first scene where his characters glass eye takes on a mind of its own. As is now known his quirky sandal wearing trash metal listening financial expertise which is contrary to all popular opinion goes ignored to devastating effect.

If you can keep across the financial jargon this is in turn funny and depressing, exhilarating  and exasperating often all at the same time.


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