Brad Pitt

The Big Short

MV5BMjM2MTQ2MzcxOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzE4NTUyNzE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_

31/01/15

Another day, another Oscar nominated film. The Big Short appears to be a lot of people’s favourite to lift the best movie gong this year and it’s certainly accomplished. It takes a long hard look at one of the most shameful periods of recent American history – the years leading up to the American housing crisis and the subsequent crash of Wall Street’s biggest banks. More specifically, it homes in those individuals who saw the crash coming and made millions by betting that it would happen.

The first person to spot the looming bubble is Michael Burry (Christian Bale) an autistic Capital Hedge Fund Manager, who invests heavily on what he believes is a certainty. Others soon follow suit, including Mark Baum (Steve Carell) whose own self-loathing makes it difficult for him to exploit the opportunity, but he does it anyway, mostly at the behest of wheeler-dealer Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling). There’s even a couple of enterprising kids who want to have a punt and who call on ex-trader Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) to get them into the game. The witty script does a great job of explaining complicated (and it must be said, quite boring) financial manoeuvres in a way that everyone can understand and I liked the way that characters often break off in mid conversation, in order to talk directly to the camera. But if there’s a major problem with the film, it’s this – it’s very hard to root for characters who are self-serving assholes looking to make their fortunes from the misfortunes of ordinary people. OK, I appreciate these are the nearest to ‘good guys’ we’ll find in this story, but they only seem reasonable because the bankers they’re up against are so utterly and irredeemably despicable. And if that concept rankles, then this may not be the film for you.

When the crash eventually comes, the fallout is terrible, but even worse is the fact that the guilty parties don’t go to gaol, as they clearly should, but instead pay themselves massive bonuses and then look for other ways to exploit their customers. The Big Short is doubtless an important film and one that hits its intended targets with ease, but it’s also a hard film to like. For the big prize, I’d love to see Mad Max: Fury Road (unlikely) or The Revenant take the best movie gong. Could The Big Short be the one to win it? Get your bets in now, before the odds begin to shorten.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

Advertisements

Fury

MV5BMjA4MDU0NTUyN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzQxMzY4MjE@._V1_SX214_AL_

30/10/14

April 1945. As the allies push further and further into a defeated Germany, the crew of a Sherman tank, nick-named Fury, encounter hostile resistance wherever they go. When a valued member of their team is killed, he’s replaced by raw recruit, Norman (Logan Lermann,) a man more versed in using a typewriter than a machine gun. The tank’s battle-hardened sergeant, War Daddy (Brad Pitt) realises that if Norman is going to have a chance of survival, he’s going to require a swift and brutal indoctrination and that’s exactly what he gets.

Director David Ayer seems to be in his element when depicting men under pressure – his last release, End of Watch, deals with two cops on the firing line and the bond that exists between them, and here, Ayer successfully portrays the bloody mayhem of battle as seen from the claustrophobic confines of a tank. The battle scenes are mesmerisingly hideous and the moments in between reveal more about the crew themselves and the dehumanising aspects of war. By the way, those of you who normally operate a ‘No Shia Le Beouf Policy’ can relax. Here, he’s totally convincing as a religious man fighting to keep hold of his belief as hell unfolds around him.

The film has been criticised in America for the scene in which War Daddy makes Norman execute an unarmed German solider. It’s harrowing, for sure, but this is a film about warfare and the scene feels totally believable, just one more barbaric act amidst a maelstrom of destruction. Its central message, that war corrupts and destroys everything in its path is no great revelation, but you’ll emerge from this feeling that you have been in the thick of battle and if nothing else, you’ll feel a greater appreciation for what soldiers endured during the Second World War and how much we have to thank them for.

But be warned, this is no date movie. A scene where Norman is obliged to scrape what’s left of the face of his predecessor off the seat he is to occupy requires a strong stomach. It’s powerful stuff, not for the faint-hearted.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney