Adaptation Biography

'The Big Short' Blu-ray Review: The real wolves of Wall Street

March 15, 2016Ben MK

One of two ensemble films nominated for Best Picture at this year's Oscars, The Big Short has some pretty big shoes to fill. Thankfully, this superb follow-up adaptation to author Michael Lewis' "Moneyball" surpasses even its predecessor, delivering a thoroughly engrossing, surprisingly educational and more-often-than-not humorous look at the lead-up to the biggest financial disaster since The Great Depression.

Based on Lewis' 2010 book "The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine," the film tells the story of what brought about the global financial crisis of 2008, focusing its narrative on three groups of "outsiders and weirdos" who saw it coming: Dr. Michael Burry (Christian Bale), a fund manager at Scion Capital; Mark Baum (Steve Carell) and his team at FrontPoint Partners (Rafe Spall, Jeremy Strong and Hamish Linklater); and the "little guys at the big table," Charlie Geller and Jamie Shipley (John Magaro and Finn Wittrock), who together run a financial start-up called Brownfield Fund.

Narrated in part by Ryan Gosling, who also stars (alongside Brad Pitt and Marisa Tomei), the multi-threaded story revolves around plenty of financial terminology like Mortgage-Backed Securities and Collateralized Debt Obligations; and, as such, it's difficult to explain the film's plot in a manner that would make it seem remotely interesting. However, don't think for a minute that the movie is a bore to sit through, because what director/co-screenwriter Adam McKay and screenwriter Charles Randolph have achieved here ends up being one of the most electrifying films of the year.

Part drama, part documentary and part comedy, The Big Short expertly deconstructs its subject matter, using such tactics as fourth-wall breaks and celebrity cutaways to both explain the financial lingo and to shatter the tension. Long story short, viewers in the mood for a satirical and informative look at not-too-distant financial history will find plenty of good stuff here. Otherwise, the excellent performances — especially those of Bale and Carell — should captivate the remaining 10% of the audience not already enthralled by the film's compelling real-life tale and irreverent tone.

Shot in a kind of cinéma vérité style, The Big Short is the exact opposite of a big, glossy-looking blockbuster. That being said, this Blu-ray image still exhibits all the signs of a top-notch transfer, boasting nicely saturated hues, a fair amount of picture detail, and rock-solid blacks and contrast levels (all the better to showcase the film's everyday-looking settings, which include office interiors and city street-level exteriors). Sound-wise, the movie is a bit more lively, with its DTS:X sound mix not only churning out crystal-clear dialogue, but also hip-hop, heavy metal and alternative music, as well as all manner of keyboard clicks, office and traffic noises, and even the sound of gunfire at a shooting range.

Paramount Pictures' two-disc combo-pack includes an iTunes/UltraViolet digital copy, a DVD and the following Blu-ray extras:

  • In the Tranches: Casting (15:51) - Director/Co-Screenwriter Adam McKay, Producer Jeremy Kleiner and Producer Dede Gardner talk about the principal cast, their characters and their performances.
  • The Big Leap: Adam McKay (11:31) - A piece about what McKay brought to the film, as well as a bit about the film's use of fourth-wall breaks.
  • Unlikely Heroes: The Characters of the Big Short (11:28) - A look at the film's core characters: Michael Burry, Jared Vennett, Mark Baum, Jamie Shipley and Charlie Geller, and Ben Rickert.
  • The House of Cards: The Rise of the Fall (14:01) - Technical Consultant Adam Davidson and the filmmakers walk viewers through the key moments that led up to the 2008 financial collapse, as well as the financial instruments that made it possible.
  • Getting Real: Recreating an Era (11:13) - Adam McKay, Editor Hank Corwin, Director of Photography Barry Ackroyd, Costume Designer Susan Matheson and the cast and the filmmakers talk about keeping the film engaging and authentic through the cinematography, the costume design and the editing.
  • Deleted Scenes (6:28) - Five scenes ("Vennett's Call/The Real Danny Moses - Extended," "Florida Visit," "Burry Homelife," "Burry Aspergers" and "Danny Heart Attack").

The Big Short is available from Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment as of March 15th, 2016. The Blu-ray features English DTS:X, French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, English DTS Headphone:X and English Dolby Digital 5.1 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. The total runtime is 2 Hrs. 10 Mins.

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