Blu-ray Review: The Big Short

The Big Short Blu-ray boxSTUDIO: Paramount | DIRECTOR: Adam McKay | CAST: Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Steve Carrell, Ryan  Gosling, Marisa Tomei
RELEASE DATE: 3/15/16 | PRICE: DVD $29.99, Blu-ray/DVD Combo $39.99
BONUSES: featurettes, deleted scenes
SPECS: | 170 min. | Drama | widescreen 16:9 | DTS:X | French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles
RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie 4 Dishes | Audio 4 Dishes  | Video 4 Dishes | Overall 5 Dishes


The Big Short

Christian Bale sees a real estate bubble burst in the future in The Big Short.

After getting to know writer/director Adam McKay through Will Ferrell comedies including the Anchorman movies, The Other Guys, Step Brothers and others, it seems odd to think of him at the helm of a film like The Big Short — that is until you see Margot Robbie (Focus) sipping champagne in a bubble bath explaining sub-prime mortgages. But it’s the light-hearted cameos like Robbie’s and others’ that elevate The Big Short from run-of-the-mill biography dramas.

The Big Short looks at the scary time in U.S. history — and later world history — when questionable activities by bankers led to a housing bubble that burst spectacularly in the mid-2000s. The film follows some of the investors who saw the burst coming and took it as an opportunity to make millions of dollars, but it comes with the price of knowing that their benefit will be at the expense of the economy as well as millions of people’s homes and lives.

McKay pulled together a stellar cast for the movie, which the featurette “In the Tranches: Casting” on the Blu-ray explains was an easy task. Christian Bale (Out of the Furnace), Brad Pitt (Fury), Steve Carell (Foxcatcher) and others signed on quickly when they got a look at the script, which was written by McKay and Charles Randolph based on the book by Michael Lewis, who also wrote the books that became Moneyball and The Blind Side. (There’s a reason McKay and Randolph won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for this movie.) All the cast, from the headliners to bit players portraying well-meaning realtors and clueless mortgage brokers, do an excellent job of making their characters real.

And that helps ground The Big Short, because the subject matter is difficult for viewers. On the one hand, the characters are ambitious guys with a plan and you want them to succeed; on the other hand, they’re based on real people, and that fact, along with the very real effects of this tragedy, aren’t minimalized in the film. On the contrary, McKay makes it obvious that he sees the major characters as very flawed, with Ryan Gosling’s (The Gangster Squad) character Jared Vennett breaking the fourth wall to tell the audience that: Sure, he’s doing bad stuff, but he was taking advantage of a system that was broken way before him. It’s a story with no heroes, a trainwreck that you can’t take your eyes off, but with McKay behind the film, you can at least laugh while you cry. As Gosling says in the featurette “Unlikely Heroes: The Characters of The Big Short,” “Although the characters are walking a moral tightrope, the film never does.”

The Blu-ray’s picture and sound are great, and they’re coupled with a nice collection of special features. As well as the casting and characters featurettes, there’s one on McKay’s move to drama (“The Big Leap: Adam McKay”); the production team’s efforts to make the film authentic, from the characters, to the props, to the costumes (“Getting Real: Recreating an Era”); and one on the reality of the housing bubble (“The House of Cards: The Rise of the Fall”), which repeats a lot of the movie, but rounds out the extras nicely.

Finally there are a handful of deleted scenes that are brief but add some interesting contexts to the film, including one with Christian Bale’s Michael Burry dealing with his son’s Asperbergers. (And we have to applaud Paramount for going straight to the menu without forcing viewers through a collection of previews when the Blu-ray is first played.)

If you can stomach the disgust of how bankers screwed America, The Big Short Blu-ray is worth your time.

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About S. Clark

Sam Clark is the former Managing Editor/Online Editor of Video Business magazine. With 19 years experience in journalism, 12 in the home entertainment industry, Sam has been hooked on movies on since she saw E.T. then stared into the sky waiting to meet her own friendly alien. Thanks to her husband’s shared love of movies, Sam reviews Blu-ray discs in a true home theater, with a 118-inch screen, projector and cushy recliners with cup holders.