I’m currently re-watching Game of Thrones, which bears some of the same plot problems with The Big Short. Since there are multiple stories happening, it’s hard to feel particularly attached to any single character, and in turn, their respective actions and emotions have less of an impact on us. It’s hard not to become immensely bored when watching Daenerys Targaryen anytime she’s on screen, or really any of the subplot involving Stannis Baratheon or Margaery Tyrell before they meet up with other major characters from the show. Game of Thrones is much better now, but in its early days, it was almost like a prequel to the show it would eventually become.
The Big Short faces this conflict with three loosely-intertwined but ultimately unrelated stories: that of Christian Bale’s character, Brad Pitt’s character, and Steve Carrell and Ryan Gosling’s characters. Sucessfully shifting between these three tales while still keeping our attention is a difficult task, but luckily writer and director Adam McKay rises up to the challenge. Each of the stories is wildly entertaining, particularly the one that focuses on Steve Carrell, who is the perfect representation of rage at the ravage stupidity and greed that defined Wall Street and finance leading up to the financial collapse.
Like Spotlight, another Best Picture nominee in 2016, The Big Short doesn’t necessarily have a central antagonist, no chief Wall Street stooge or key villain each hero must defeat to bring their respective tale closure. They’re just battling and taking advantage of a corrupt system. Even when they get their financial reward, it isn’t satisfying, as they’re fully aware of the severe financial ramifications this crisis will have on the world. But The Big Short’s heroes always wear their impenetrable morality on their sleeve from the get go (save for Ryan Gosling.) They know they’re oddballs. They know they’re misfits and would never score a table at Dorsia or land a VP job. But unlike the normal Wall Street guys, they are good people, and makes remembering them and this movie worth it.