Remember back in 2008 when the housing market crashed and it was like a reincarnated version of America’s Great Depression? Ever wonder how it happened and what led to such a devastating blow?
I didn’t either. In fact, I’m still a little confused as to how it happened, but The Big Short does a decent job of tackling this collapse and spinning some Hollywood magic into the mix.
The Big Short (2015) is a film adaptation of Michael Lewis’ best-selling novel The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine. Written by Adam McKay and Charles Randolph, McKay also takes the director’s chair and delivers a film that does a decent job at simplifying the complicated concept behind Wall Street and the burst of housing bubbles.
As a hedge fund manager, Michael Burry (Christian Bale) finds a defect in America’s housing market, and realizes it is unstable due to high-risk loans. He seems to be the only one to have come to this realization, and uses the opportunity to make a profit off of the banks. Basically he’s betting against the banks that the housing market will collapse, which would be the first time in history. Everyone who gets word about Burry’s plan writes him off as being outrageously stupid.
The rest of the plot is difficult to explain due to the expansive banking terminology used in the film, and to be honest, most of it flew over my head. My brain hurt by the end of the film, but that doesn’t mean McKay leaves the viewer hanging by a shoe string over a cliff.
After every two or three scenes of the story, McKay offers a few celebrity appearances from guests Margot Robbie, Anothony Bourdain and Selena Gomez to help explain the concepts within the film. They were a great way to accompany the audience by breaking the fourth wall and using simpler real world explanations, such as betting on a poker player at the casino.
Salesman Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) also breaks the fourth wall numerous times throughout the film, acting as both a character and the story’s narrator. Through Vennett we are later introduced to other major characters in the film like Mark Baum (Steve Carell) another hedge fund manager, and retired securities trader Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt). Each having their own respected role in the film, their separate stories eventually overlap and we’re able to get multiple angles on the horrors that Wall Street entails.
One of the most dark and disturbing “slap in the face” moments I wasn’t ready for came halfway through the film. Rickert is helping two younger investors who by chance occurrence also got whiff of what was going down in the banks and are in Vegas investigating.
When they sell their securities to banks for cheap swaps, in turn they will make nearly $80 million. Just like any other person might, they become over joyed and break out into a geeky celebrating dance. Rickert turns around and blasts them the reality of the situation. Since the economy will be taking such a hit, he points out how the unemployment rate is attached to 40,000 deaths every one percent. Once that sinks in, the gravity of what is happening to the economy isn’t so pleasant.
This is a difficult idea for any viewer to wrap their head around if they’re not Wall Street whizzes or investors, but The Big Short delivers a stellar cast with an irresistible script you won’t want to miss. You might feel exhausted at the end, but the trip is worth it.