As a film that uses heavy stylisation through documentary style interviews, narration and archival footage, The Big Short (2015) portrays the reality of the global banking crisis. Mckay nonetheless manages to combine these elements with an ensemble cast of famous faces, constructing a unique portrayal of the global banking crisis. The fast pace of the events and amount of banking jargon could have easily distanced the audience from the content. But instead Mckay manages to provide a satirical and engaging outlook on the lead up to the recession, which can be considered entertaining rather than distancing.
Mckay’s consistent focus on the use of media and archival footage frames the documentary as reality, with a satirical and critical view upon the corruption of capitalism mocked with footage of rap videos orientated around money. The film becomes a distinct mockery of the system, explaining the banking jargon through satirical scenes of celebrities explaining them with introductions such as ‘here’s Margot Robbie in a bubble bath to explain’. The wealth and lack of compassion amongst the bankers is consistently presented through Mckay’s mockery of them through the narration of Ryan Gosling. The number of characters in what appears to be varying narratives all end up affecting each other, as the domino effect of the banking crisis is exposed. Instead of creating a serious drama to tell the story of the banking crisis Mckay strays towards a satirical and unique structure. This works well as it exposes the bankers as greedy and desperate with no sympathy for their situation.
It is said at one point in The Big Short that the crisis will mark the end of capitalism. The film acts as an anti-capitalist campaign as it exposes the banker’s secrets in regards the corrupt mortgage loans, simplifying them for a wider audience. The documentary style footage set against the fiction shows Mckay’s belief in this level of corruption as the truth. In the stylistic sense the variety of visual styles allows the film to be aesthetically pleasing, even amongst drawn out conversations about CDC’s. The wealthiest are consistently presented as frivolous and reckless through the dark humour of Mckay, and the film becomes an attack on the richest minority in America.
Although the messages of The Big Short are serious and politically orientated, the acting, stylisation and satire in the film allow it to become pure entertainment. The many quirks of each key character allow the film to be viewed as unique and connectable to audiences who may have no interest whatsoever in economics. The visuals of The Big Short are both snappy and clearly placed in order to convey Mckay’s personal views upon the banking crisis. Although these snappy shots and amount of banking jargon can be overwhelming at times, the film’s stylisation and satirical humour exposes the banking systems in a digestible way.
Personal summary – This is a film full of wit and sharp dialogue, it’s a digestible and entertaining portrait of the causes of the global banking crisis, criticizing the inner workings of capitalism and how like a Jenga tower it will eventually collapse upon itself.