The Big Short (2015)
Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Melissa Leo, Marisa Tomei, John Magaro, Finn Wittrock
Directed by: Adam McKay
Written by: Adam McKay, Charles Randolph
Rating: R Running Time: 2 hr. 10 min
Back during the height of the housing bubble (2007/8), people were cashing in on the ridiculous equity available in their homes, and banks were selling variable rate mortgages to anyone with a pulse. Know what a ‘ninja’ loan is? You will after watching this film, and your faith in humanity will take a hit.
The reason banks could/would do this was because someone had figured how to bundle home loans together to turn them into highly reliable and profitable investment opportunities. The banks could then create and sell these investments from their stock of home loans for a nice profitable fee. Which was fine until the well of good loans started to dry up, and lenders decided to add more subprime loans to the mix.
Not sure what any of that means? Not a problem. The Big Short manages to be both whimsical and instructive, and the more complicated financial terms (subprime loans, synthetic CDO’s and BBB rated tranche) get quick explanations in plain English from celebrities such as Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez, and Anthony Bourdain.
The Big Short is funny, well written and performed. I especially enjoyed Christian Bale’s turn as the socially awkward, yet genius hedge-fund manager, Michael Burry. The film moves at a cracking pace, and the regular breaks of the fourth wall and cuts away to celebrity financial instructors, were both fun and informative.
This film wants you to understand what happened, and who was to blame. It attempts to sugarcoat a very sour tasting pill, with the hope that you’ll be entertained, but also clear on the details and hopefully a little pissed off. The Big Short however, isn’t completely successful realizing all its ambitions.
I was reasonably confident I understood what caused the financial crisis, but this film frequently lost me. And while it tackles this story from several different angles, it often becomes incomprehensible. Potentially limiting its audience to those that already knew all about the financial meltdown, when it should in my opinion be trying to reach and teach as many people as possible.
This film moves quickly, but does try to breakdown the more complicated terms into plain English. It’s not always successful in this regard, and this film will likely appeal more to those that have already researched the cause of The Great Recession. The Big Short is rated R for language and nudity.
This is a decently made film, but not one that especially needs to be seen on a theater screen. Its ‘based on true events’ story is an important one, so I would encourage you to see it as soon as possible. In all honestly though, a HD rental to watch on a nice big TV will service this production well enough.
There are a lot of great moments in this film, but nothing tops Margot Robbie enjoying a glass of champagne, sitting in a bath tub explaining subprime mortgages!