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Big Short, The

Paramount // R // March 15, 2016
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Neil Lumbard | posted March 18, 2016 | E-mail the Author
The Big Short Blu-ray Review

The Big Short is a 2015 film from producers Dede Gardner (12 Years a Slave), Jeremy Kleiner (World War Z), Arnon Milchan (Birdman), and Brad Pitt (Selma).  It is executive produced by Kevin J. Messick (Jack Reacher) and Louise Rosner (The Hunger Games). Based upon the non-fiction book The Big Short written by Michael Lewis, the film focuses on a handful of individuals involved in the financial crisis of 2007-2008 which led to the significant economic downturn in America and the collapse of the housing market. Nominated for 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor for Christian Bale, The Big Short is one of the best films of the year.

In 2005 a hedge fund manager named Michael Burry (Christian Bale), discovered that the housing market was unstable in America. Burry realized that if he placed bets against the housing market by creating a credit default swap market that he could profit from the bad housing market situation significantly. He went around and placed bets with big banks worth millions of dollars. If the housing marketing situation worsened and collapsed, Burry would profit significantly. The downside? It would mean a massive collapse of economic security within America.

Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), a wall street trader, learns about the bets being placed by Burry and decides to start to put his own bets and stakes in the market. His team becomes involved with Mark Baum (Steve Carell), who is also a hedge fund manager, and his team also joins. Everyone on their respective teams begins to be involved in the process.

Two young business entrepreneurs named Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) also find out about the bets being placed against the housing market and decide to join in as well. The pair made 30 million on their investments and they become involved in the credit default swaps. With the help of their retired banker friend named Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), they invest in bets with big banks too.

At the American Securitization Forum in Las Vegas, Mark Baum interviews Mr. Chau (Byron Mann), who is the creator of synthetic CDO's (where bets are placed against bad loans and continually increase over time) and realizes that the corrupt banking and fraud would lead directly to economic collapse in America.

While the small group of characters in this story would profit big from the big banks fraud and corruption, the rest of America would be left in collapse with millions losing their homes and jobs. The economy took a nosedive into as large of a depression as what had not been seen in America since the Great Depression.

The film is an important one which is a well-made exploration of the collapse of the housing market in America in the 2000's. The film explores the subject matter in a way that is rather compelling with good filmmaking. The film wisely explores the complicated business terms within an easier to understand framework: the terms are confusing and (as the film notes) are designed to make people  feel stupid. The film cuts to the chase in these business aspects and utilizes celebrity cameo appearances from the likes of Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez while explaining the gist of things in a more easily understood way.  

The performances in the film are excellent throughout. Christian Bale is exceptional as Michael Burry (who always did business in a t-shirt and while wearing flip-flops). Steve Carell is also impressive as Mark Baum. Carell has always been a fantastic actor and this is another great turn from him. The supporting cast is excellent as well. Brad Pitt is excellent as retired banker Ben, who is fed-up with the system and Marisa Tomei excels as Cynthia Baum (Marisa Tomei), Mark's wife and his supporter through the film's events.

The film was well produced as well with a number of exceptional production elements. The music score was composed by Nicholas Britell (Whiplash) and it has a strong backdrop to McKay's filmmaking style. The cinematography by Barry Ackroyd (The Hurt Locker) is exceptional and compelling throughout.  The style is riveting and complex. The editing by Hank Corwin  (The Tree of Life, The New World) gives the film a strong pace and frenetic style that feels stylistically exciting.

The casting by Kathy Driscoll (Spider-Man) and Francine Maisler (Birdman) helped the film significantly as the all-star cast of leads brought much to the table. The cast was superb and helped carry the filmmaking to great heights.

The production design by Clayton Hartley (Anchorman) is strong throughout and does an excellent job of conveying both the look and feel of the 2000's. The Big Short has an excellent production design overall which greatly aids the filmmaking style. Costume designer Susan Matheson (Terminator Genisys)  also does strong work by bringing an accurate style to the film with the actors wearing costumes similar to what the real-life people wore during the time-period.

Directed by Adam McKay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights), The Big Short is a significant change of pace for the filmmaker. The director is mostly known for his collaborations with actor Will Ferrell. The two started working together at Saturday Night Live when McKay was a staff writer on the program. The two burst into the filmmaking scene together with Achorman and have largely worked together since.

McKay has never made a dramatic film like this one before and it's an impressive directorial achievement from a filmmaker largely known for comedies. The cast is fantastic and McKay manages to bring the absolute best out of the ensemble. McKay's direction is also fantastic for being able to so deftly tell a story about the financial crisis and keep it interesting, entertaining, and educational throughout. This is no small feat and the director achieved something great with this production.

The screenplay for the film is written by Charles Randolph (Love and Other Drugs) and Adam McKay (as based upon the book written by Michael Lewis). The screenplay won the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay. The film is impressive for being able to discuss the highly complex and confusing nature of the banking and wall-street terms while making the film one accessible to audiences. That the script also is entertaining and surprisingly humorous makes it an even greater success. Yet the storytelling definitely does not celebrate the  financial victory of the lead characters. Rather, the story emphasizes the American tragedy of the financial crisis and how damaging it was to the American people. This helps to make the film even more successful and important.

The Big Short is a remarkable achievement. The film tells an important story about the financial crisis and downturn in American in 2007-2008. It does so with a superb cast (easily one of the most notable ensembles of the year) and with confident direction by Adam McKay. This is an important story and the film is one which should be seen by Americans. The Big Short is a big achievement which is simultaneously entertaining and heartbreaking.

The Blu-ray:


The Big Short arrives on Blu-ray with a technically impressive 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded image in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. The presentation is superb. It features rich color reproduction and excellent clarity and detail. The transfer retains the natural filmic look of the film (which was filmed on 35mm). The cinematography is excellent and it is well represented on this exceptional quality release.


The Big Short is presented on Blu-ray with a strong DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround sound presentation.  DTS: X is also available for those with compatible receivers. The 24 bit lossless audio sounds superb with good dialogue clarity and a nice use of the surrounds for ambiance.


This release is a Blu-ray + UV/iTunes Combo Pack.

In The Tranches: Casting (16 min.) examines the casting effort for the film and the performances of the ensemble. Featuring interviews with the cast and director Adam McKay.

The Big Leap: Adam McKay (12 min.) explores the directorial effort of McKay, who was making his dramatic filmmaking debut after building a career as a comedy filmmaker. The cast, crew, and producers discuss his giant leap forward as director and the impressive work he did on the film.

Unlikely Heroes: The Characters of The Big Short (12 min.) explores the actual individuals behind the film's lead roles with interviews with both the film's cast and some of the real individual's.

The House of Cards: The Rise of the Fall (14 min.) explores some of the financial terms used in the film and focuses on the housing market economic collapse.

Getting Real: Recreating an Era (11 min.) focuses on the costume designer, editor, and production design to the film's authentic recreation of 2000's stlye and of the style of the characters from the story. Adam McKay also discusses his preference for filming on film over digital.


Deleted Scenes (7 min.) offers 5 Deleted/Alternate Scenes from the film are also included.

Final Thoughts:

The collapse of the housing market was a significant one which negatively affected millions of Americans. The film explores the economic depression which began in America in 2007-2008 through this surprising story. The film should absolutely be seen by Americans: it's an essential and relevant film about the financial crisis.

The filmmaking is exceptional with strong performances from the great ensemble cast and an impressive directorial turn from co-screenwriter/director Adam McKay. The Big Short is an important effort well worth experiencing.  

Highly Recommended.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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Highly Recommended

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