Funny and scary and sad, this is an expert handling of recent American history.
1. This movie is based on the book of the same name, and is about the almost impossible levels of corruption and stupidity that caused the world-crippling financial crisis from 2007-2010.
2. The movie is funny, fascinating, and deeply depressing. If you're not cynical about the world yet, you will be after this movie.
3. The story follows a few different groups of people around 2005 who stumble onto signs that big investment banks are selling bonds made of home mortgages that were trash. They decide to bet that the bonds would eventually fail, which would make them rich.
4. It's a complicated subject that involves a lot of moving parts, distant connections, and economic black magic. The movie does a really good job of explaining the main parts of what happened, and makes things more understandable to regular people. But if you want to know the details of what happened and why, you will either need to already be an expert on the situation, or else do additional research on your own.
5. One of the themes of the movie is that regular people had no idea what was going to happen because they were too distracted by other things and weren't paying attention to their own circumstances. This theme is illustrated by periodic montages of pop culture and media that interrupt the flow of the ever-deepening sense of dread building up in the main story.
6. The cast is a great mix of unknown actors as well as well-known ones. Christian Bale is amazing once again, playing a socially awkward investment manager that trusts his math over other peoples' advice. Ryan Gosling plays another version of most of his characters, but he's good at it, so that's fine. And Steve Carell continues to show that he is not just a great comedian, but one of the best actors today.
7. The movie was co-written and directed by Adam McKay, who directed Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and Step Brothers. It's pretty obvious that he has a working partnership with Will Ferrell. The Big Short is his first real shot at making a more dramatic movie - and it's the first movie he directed that didn't star Will Ferrell. McKay does an excellent job here, finding humor in a situation that really isn't very funny.
8. The film has a unique visual and narrative style - the camera kind of freewheels through situations and time periods, making the whole thing very kinetic. The characters often break the fourth wall and talk directly to the audience; sometimes they tell us whether a scene really happened or was made up for the movie.
9. This is a smart movie that requires a lot of concentration. But the talented cast and the careful script make it easier to follow. This is a socially important movie if you want to keep informed about what's really going on around you. Just remember, this is a true story, and you already know that there is no happy ending.