Brad Pitt and the 2008 financial crisis

Two films about the financial crisis of 2008, both with Brad Pitt in them. Is he trying to tell us something?

I enjoyed both Killing Them Softly and the recent The Big Short, though the latter’s editing takes a bit of getting used to. (It’s based on the book by Michael Lewis, of The Blind Side and Moneyball, which also had Brad Pitt in it.)

As films, what was most interesting (alongside the editing choices) is that both chose to break the fourth wall.

The Big Short’s approach is audacious: nearly all of the main characters talk directly to the audience, and there are three breaks in the narrative in which people-as-themselves (including Selena Gomez and Richard Thaler sitting together at a casino table, obviously) explain some of the complex financial instruments central to the crash (such as Collateralised Debt Obligations, or CDOs).

Killing Them Softly’s fourth wall technique is much more subtle. An edit chooses to maintain the shot of a camera mounted on a car door as the car door opens and closes. Some have suggested this is a bit of a show-off shot, but I take both films’ breaking of the fourth wall to highlight that what they’re talking about – the economy – is about “you”, i.e. us.