The Big Short (2015)
This less opinionated and more charismatic half-brother of Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story is based on Michael Lewis' highly successful book about the financial crisis of 2007-08 and how the ran-amok American housing market instigated it. We follow a handful of hedge fund managers and investors over the course of a few months leading up to the crack, and the film alternates between hailing the brilliance of those who foresaw the crisis long in advance and slamming both the system which made it all possible and the individuals who were too unenlightened to realize the dangers of going in over their heads. This is a great basis for enjoyable filmmaking, especially for viewers who are smart enough to feel puffed-up by the film's tribute to intelligence. It may not be very noble, and it may turn even the greatest optimist into a pessimist on behalf of humanity and society, but at least the film paints a harrowing picture. Much like Michael Moore's Capitalism, you walk out feeling enlightened and slightly enraged, but unlike his film you feel that you've been allowed to make up your own opinion.
There's also another clever move by the filmmakers here: Just when you start doubting if you're smart enough to follow the most technical and theoretical parts of the plot, they make it all accessible again by throwing in some folksy paraphrasings by completely uninvolved celebrities in bathtubs and whatnot. It's a brilliant little trick.
The great acting is the icing on the cake here, and leading the way is Christian Bale's wonderfully eccentric performance – it's a stand-out, even in a career of terrific eccentric performances. There's also fine work by Steve Carell who keeps refining his 'miserable persona', but this time leaves out the comedic part, and the result is a completely credible character.