The Big Short tells the true story of a group of men who profited from the 2008 financial crash. It will both enlighten and entertain you, all while your blood boils from sheer frustration.
In 2005, Wall Street guru Michael Burry (Christian Bale) realises that a number of subprime home loans are in danger of defaulting. So he bets against the housing market by transferring more than $1 billion of his investors’ money into credit default swaps. He’s essentially betting against the American economy.
His outlandish behaviour attracts the attention of slimy banker Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), a naturally suspicious hedge-fund specialist named Mark Baum (Steve Carell) and other greedy opportunists.
When the men sense that a financial catastrophe is closing in they soon realise that they have two choices; be responsible and let the world know, or profit from it. The selfish money men choose the latter, effectively screwing everyone over. But hey it’s fair game right? After all that’s what the banks had being doing to us all for years.
What’s worse is that Baum and his goons have dedicated their lives to identifying misconduct in the finance sector, only to capitalise on the biggest one they find. In their world everything is up for grabs. We follow these spineless Wall Street scumbags referred to as “outsiders and weirdos” throughout the movie as they take revenge on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight.
So how do they do it? Burry and his fellow high-finance experts spot and then follow the deteriorating state of the US economy over a three years period and then bet against it, cross their fingers and pray for disaster. This type of investment is referred to as shorting.
But don’t worry when the movie gets too heavy they bring in beautiful celebrities to force-feed you the dumbed-down version. I mean who’s going to complain about Margot Robbie explaining the ins and out of mortgages terms when she’s butt naked in bubble bath sipping on champagne?
Over time though it becomes a rather tired concept and once Selina Gomez rocks up explaining yet another way the banks are screwing us over, you’ve over it. What worse is that when the movie delves in the really heavy financial jargon you’re left to fend for yourself. Even gorgeous celebrities can’t help you out of that bind.
The Big Short was directed by Adam McKay who is responsible for well-loved comedies like Step Brothers, Anchorman, Talladega Nights and The Other Guys. This is a man with a proven track record for delivering comedies jam-packed with testosterone and The Big Short is no exception. McKay somehow manages to make sense of mortgage bonds, collateralised debt obligations and credit default swaps, and somehow manages to make them funny too.
The Big Short will affirm your deepest cynicism about Wall Street while simultaneously restoring your faith in Hollywood. Unlike The Wolf of WallStreet’s Jordan Belfort, there’s nothing remotely seductive about these men or their antics.
McKay’s latest movie is a documentary, a comedy and a satire all rolled into one. In the end we’re left with a very serious and sobering satirical comedy. The Big Short is a healthy smoothie cleverly disguised as a greasy burger.
By Ruth Walker