Seven years out from the financial crisis of 2008, critics agree that Adam McKay‘s “The Big Short” is a great way to learn how it all went down.
With an 86 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the film is being hailed as a “smart” and “terrifically enjoyable” look at the men who predicted the meltdown and made millions betting against it.
“The film (wisely) never overestimates viewers’ attention spans,” Inkoo Kang wrote in her review for TheWrap, “embracing instead a kitchen-sink approach to any technique that might work: Ryan Gosling talking to the camera, Margot Robbie defining financial terms while taking a bubble bath, tumbling Jenga blocks, the most obvious visual metaphors to be conceived.”
But it’s not just McKay’s direction. Critics also praised the performances by the central cast of Gosling, Brad Pitt, Christian Bale and Steve Carell. Cameo appearances by Robbie and Selena Gomez were also mentioned as some of the film’s highlights.
See what reviewers like best about “The Big Short” below:
Peter Keough, Boston Globe:
“Sure, a number of features and documentaries have been made about [the 2008 financial crisis]. But they did not have a guest appearance from Margot Robbie, Leo DiCaprio’s trophy wife from “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013), explaining how mortgage bonds work while lolling in a bubble bath.”
Soren Andersen, Seattle Times:
“The words fountain from the mouths of Type A guys in suits in offices, and somehow all that talk — and ‘The Big Short’ is virtually all talk — very quickly becomes weirdly fascinating. It’s made so by the caliber of the actors talking that talk — most notably Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt — and the supercharged intensity they bring to the delivery of the verbiage.”
“One of the most appealing things about this very appealing movie — a stylistic Chex Mix of storytelling, satire, advocacy, and clip art — is its high regard for the intellect of the viewer, who is at times addressed directly by the film’s characters or by celebrities playing themselves in pop-up cameos. ‘The Big Short’ … proceeds on the assumption that not only are Americans capable of understanding exactly what happened to our money in the wake of the events of 2008, but we deserve to understand it — indeed, that it’s our moral duty to do so.”
David Sims, The Atlantic:
“Adam McKay is angry, and righteously so. The director of ‘The Big Short,’ a rollicking adaptation of Michael Lewis‘ non-fiction examination of the financial crisis, has taken that book’s disparate threads and thrown them together onscreen, and the messiness feels almost justified … McKay seeks to find order, but at the same time, he’s taking cynical delight in the chaos. He’s created a film that is fun to watch, but based on themes that are terrifying to consider.”
Kenneth Turan, L.A. Times:
“To this film’s credit, even though it places audiences on the side of its protagonists, it doesn’t let us forget that there were consequences to what Wall Street did, that millions of Americans suffered because of the actions of a few.”
A.O. Scott, New York Times:
“It’s a trip. At the end, your brain hurts and you feel sick to your stomach, as can happen when too much adrenaline has been surging through your system. But that queasy, empty feeling is the point: This is a terrifically enjoyable movie that leaves you in a state of rage, nausea and despair.”
Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun Times:
“Directing with feverish ingenuity, as if he’d been told this is the last movie he’ll ever make, McKay pulls out all the tricks, from dizzying hand-held camera moves to having characters occasionally break the fourth wall to staging hilarious cameos in which celebrities playing themselves break down some of the most complicated ‘inside baseball’ talk about the subprime mortgage crisis and collateralized debt obligations and mortgage-backed securities.
“And it’s mostly a comedy. A devastatingly funny comedy.”
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone:
“I’d call it a Restoration comedy for right the fuck now, a farce fueled by rage against the machine that relentlessly kills ethics, and a hell of a hilarious time at the movies if you’re up for laughs that stick in your throat.”
Andrew O’Hehir, Salon:
“If ‘The Big Short’ didn’t have these layers of absurdist splash and sizzle, and didn’t have four of the biggest male stars of our era playing deliberately outrageous outsiders and renegades, would you be even remotely interested in watching it? With its cartoonish pace, larger-than-life characters and detours into farce and agitprop, this movie captures the accelerated pace of life in the financial markets and the vast scale of their mendacity far more vividly than a naturalistic drama could.”