The collapse of the world’s economy may not have been understood by all, but most certainly affected everyone. It may appear to be prime material for a dark, high-brow drama but it is actually a much more fitting and effective tone writer/director Adam Mackay has chosen: a comedy.
Mackay’s telling is both funny and engaging, making a topic that could be boring interesting and fun. This approach, although it may not seem so initially, is arguably the most appropriate for the subject matter. It makes it more accessible, it doesn’t exclude the audience from the financial industry by acting as though they could never understand it. Instead, it takes them behind the curtain with the purpose of revealing the inherent corruptness and selfishly withheld knowledge that could have prevented or diminished the impact of the eventual economic crash.
One of the uniquely clever devices Mackay uses is cut aways to a host of famous faces explaining terms and concepts in more simplistic (and often humourous) ways. These range from Margot Robbie swearing in a bubble bath to Anthony Bourdain making a seafood stew which prove to be very effective in developing the audience’s understanding without being patronizing or making it feel as though they are at school. As well as brilliant moments of fourth-wall-breaking, definitions pop up on the screen at various points to ensure you don’t become lost or alienated by the language. These devices mean that you don’t need any knowledge of economics to enjoy or understand the events of the film (a more honest approach than the opposite used by bankers to disguise their misdeeds at the time of the crash). While you may not be able to completely explain it all afterwards, you’ll certainly be able to follow what is occurring on screen.
Despite the numerous threads and characters that weave in and out of the film, Mackay pulls off a great balancing act meaning that no one gets lost and no thread is followed through. The acting is fantastic across the board, with each character appearing as three-dimensional and vibrant (even when they are portrayed as shallow bankers) and each given a great introduction. Standouts amongst an incredible ensemble are Christian Bale’s portrayal of Dr. Mike Burry, showing an actor known for submerging into his character on top form, and Steve Carell who’s Mark Baum is as close to a moral compass amongst the bankers as you can get in this corrupt world.
The documentary-esque cinematography serves to reiterate the reality of the situation, making you feel like a fly on the wall, an insider, learning the secrets that you weren’t supposed to know. This makes the film appear as though it was made for the people by those angry at the injustice and eager to highlight it. Therefore, depending on your experience during the economic crash, the film is likely to elicit and/or reignite various emotions (but mostly anger).
Overall, the film’s strong energy and rhythm, along with the clever and witty devices implemented to assist in understanding, help the audience to navigate the ins and outs of the corrupted events that lead to the downfall of the world’s economy. A brilliant and important film that everyone should see.