HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Big Short
HTS Overall Score:85
It seems that the American nation is at a boiling point in both our political and financial fronts. Films about “truth” have been coming out at an unprecedented rate, whether they be horribly inaccurate and pandering like “Truth” was, or insightful and disturbing like “Spotlight” was. People want the TRUTH, and now more than ever they’re fed up with the lies and misdirection’s that have plagued us for decades. We have presidential candidates that echo that cry is rather obvious way. There’s the self-made billionaire who’s never held office in his life on the conservative side of the spectrum, and the left is embracing a Senator who has made a political career on decrying the rich and powerful. People are SCREAMING at each other in ways that has divided our politics and our families as the people cry out for SOME kind of change (unfortunately that can be a duel edged sword as we’ve seen in many countries during history), and much of that goes back to the huge economic collapse in 2008 that left millions unemployed and a natural distrust of the banking system turned into an outright loathing of anything related to the financial sector. “The Big Short” brings us back to those “good” times just before the enormous collapse happens as a couple of people foresee one of the biggest crashes in all of America’s history, rivaled only by the Great Depression.
Michael Burry (Christian Bale) is a rather odd and socially awkward hedge fund manager, and while his investors have given him certain amounts of power, they soon may regret it (at least in the short run). Burry decides to look into Mortgage bonds and the actual loans that are going out and sees that the housing market is going to collapse. Everyone laughs at him and blows him off, but Burry spends several BILLION dollars of his client’s money into shorting the housing market. That is he basically bet against the housing market and invested in them to LOSE. Bankers laugh their way to the vault as they accept the money that Burry is investing, thinking that it will never ever come to fruition, but other people pick up on the clues and start making their own bets. Banker Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) comes to Mark Baum (Steve Carell) over at Morgan Stanley and clues them into the impending doom. Baum is a man who has lost all faith in the system and at the mere hint that there is corruption and failure in the banking system has him salivating at the mouth. Even fly by night fund investors (played by Finn Wittrock and John Magaro) get in on the action and start betting everything they have that the market is going to collapse in 2nd quarter 2007 (when all of the variable rate mortgages shoot their rates up after the introductory period is over and everyone starts defaulting on their loans).
Come 2007 and people start defaulting. However, this is where the investors mentioned above start to realize something even BIGGER is at stake. The Mortgage bonds are devaluing like you wouldn’t believe but their RATINGS aren’t budging an inch. Shocked at the disparity Baum, Burry and the rest start to investigate only to realize that the big brass already know. They’re just propping up the markets with false ratings and fraudulent business practices in an effort to keep the public in the dark. What seemed like train hurtling towards doom is suddenly revealed as a paper mache train filled built with matchsticks, throbbing along on nothing but tears and lies. However, you can prop something up for only so long before the termite ridden support beams start to collapse, and collapse they did. In 2008 the U.S. market suffered a crash of epic proportions as banks failed, investigations revealed huge amounts of fraud and foreknowledge of the event and the American people waited anxiously for retribution and justice to take over.
Sadly the nation did not get their justice (which I might add brings us to why we have such non establishmentarian presidential candidates for the first time in many many years), as the government bailed out banks, and pretty much watched as they squandered the money and have pretty much reinstituted the same sleazy banking practices that bankrupted them to begin with, something that the film bemoans in its final credits scene. However, as much as I want to rail all of the judgement on the bankers and their incredibly nasty use of CDO’s and mortgage bonds, this was not an entirely one sided situations. Banks took advantage of LOTS of people with variable rate mortgages, but the American populace had an enormous amount of the blame and their shoulders as well. No one forced them to take loans that they couldn’t pay for when the variable rates spiked. The information was all there in front of them, but everyone wanted that big house and that big yard and didn’t care how they paid for it. Some were bamboozled, not knowing all the ins and outs of the system, but once again, the information was all there for them to read up on and calculate WHAT their payments would be once the variable rates kicked in. I watched friends, and sadly even family members, do the same thing, falling back on lines of “I can always refinance later” and the like as the snowball just built up steam. Human greed caused the fallout and while there is great blame on the banking side, the movie sadly didn’t tap into the blame that we shared as well for sticking our heads in the sand at what is really just basic high school math.
“The Big Short” is a bit long at 2 hours and 10 minutes, and I was really wondering how they would pull that off without becoming tedious. Certain parts ARE a bit sluggish at times, especially in the middle act of the movie, but Adam McKay uses 4th wall breaks and cheeky sarcastic humor to keep the movie moving at a brisk pace. If you’re not a Wall Street broker (I actually grew up as a business finance major and my father has worked his entire life in financial management and mortgage brokering so I have a slight insiders knowledge on the system ins and outs) then don’t be alarmed. McKay actually employs real life actors and celebrities to come in and just smash the 4th wall with a hammer while they explain things in layman’s terms. It may seem a bit cheesy and over bearing at times, but that’s part of the film’s quirky humor, and it allows the tedium of finance mumbo jumbo to be brought down to earth and given a few laughs.
While Brad Pitt is displayed prominently on the cover he really only plays a few minute here and there as Ben Rickert, but his role as producer pretty much cemented him showing up in the movie. Christian Bale and Steve Carell are the real stand outs here. Bale plays the awkward and socially inept (but brilliant) Michael Burry to a T and Carell does another standout job as a straight guy. He plays the angry Baum perfectly, showing the pain that brought him here, as well as the righteous indignation and purely personal hate that makes him a force to be reckoned with. Gosling is a Gosling, but strangely enough he’s not nearly as noticeable as I would have hoped (well, besides the bad dye job on his hair which stands out like a sore thumb).
Rated R for pervasive language and some sexuality/nudity
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=67441[/img]“The Big Short” enjoys a wonderfully cinematic feel to the image that translates to a spectacular looking Blu-ray in the 2.40:1 AVC encoded image. Skin tones are very natural and the image retains a very neutral looking color grading. Colors are rich and vibrant without seeming out of place or overly saturated. Fine detail is incredibly revealing as you can see every hair on Brad Pitt’s beard or fibers and pores on a person’s face. The Wall Street suits look wonderfully detailed with ever fold and hair on the cloth looking immaculate. Blacks are deep and inky, showing off the dark offices and even an English pub where Ben Rickert does a $200 million stock trade on his laptop. Simply put, it’s a crystal clear image with near perfect specs. Well done.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=67449[/img]I had to do a double take when I checked the box specs, as Paramount usually has a DTS-HD MA track or a Dolby Atmos track if they decide to venture out into the world of object based audio. Instead they have a full DTS:X object based track, which is a first for the company as the only studio to release a DTS:X track in America is Lionsgate so far. I thought that “The Big Short” was also an odd choice, being that it’s not a balls to the walls action or sci-fi movie to really allow the track to sing. Strangely enough, the DTS:X experience is AMAZING. There is more than enough surround and object based surround activity in the crazy city of Manhattan to light those channels up with plenty of noises. Some basic ambient noises, and others a cacophony of sounds that really sucks the listener in. the lfe is tight and impressive, but never imposing or tries to upstage the dialog. The quirky score for the movie interjects itself into the film with varying degrees of intensity. Sometimes it’s mean to accentuate a certain scene, and other times it’s meant to take the center stage with an eerie set of doomsday organ playing. All in all it’s not up to the best of the best, but the 7.1 DTS-HD MA core track is really well done for those of you without a DTS:X equipped receiver yet (which is about 99% of people at this moment until a lot more firmware upgrades are made on modern equipment).
• In the Tranches: Casting
• The Big Leap: Adam McKay
• Unlikely Heroes: The Characters of "The Big Short"
• The House of Cards: The Rise of the Fall
• Getting Real: Recreating an Era
• Deleted Scenes
“The Big Short” is not a 100% perfect conspiracy theory film, but it is really close. Always entertaining (with short bits of dullness that couldn’t be glossed over) it stands as good film that unveils the hypocrisy and greed that pretty much had the U.S. teetering on the verge of a second great depression. Every role seemed to be handpicked for the actors and certainly got nominated enough at the academy awards. Sadly it only picked up best Screenplay as the other 4 nominations went to other films, but that shouldn’t detract in any way for how under rated this was during its theatrical run. I’m usually VERY skeptical of films that try to “uncover the truth”, but “The Big Short” does an amazing job at covering most of the angles and leaving you with a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach on the realization of just how precarious of situation we were (ARE) in during that time period. Well done and given great technical specs, the Blu-ray is a definite watch type of film that shines in HD.
Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt
Directed by: Adam McKay
Written by: Adam McKay, Charles Randolph
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS:X (DTS-HD MA 7.1 Core), French, Spanish, Portuguese DD 5.1, English DTS Headphone:X
Runtime: 130 Minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: March 15th, 2016
Buy The Big Short On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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