“You want to bet against the housing market, and you’re afraid we won’t pay YOU?”
I’m not a smart guy. I have absolutely no idea what happened in the housing market crash of 2008 and the economic balls-up that followed. I know my hard-earned money suddenly became less valuable and that it was gonna be a few more years before I got to own my house; but outside of that, I am a blinkered, clueless idiot as far as the last few years on Wall Street are concerned.
So what I needed was someone to explain to me what the holy crap happened back then, without talking to me like a complete muppet.
The Big Short was just what I was looking for. The intertwining tale of a handful of financial experts who, through one means or another, figure out that the housing market and the credit bubble associated with it are in the verge of collapse and work on making themselves rich in the process. Based on a true story (again), Christian Bale is the real-life Michael Burry; a brilliant but eccentric hedge fund manager who has a penchant for predicting insane financial changes that no-one else can see. When he discovers that a lot of money can be made when this collapse, that no-one sees coming or believes will happen, he sets about betting against the housing market and making him, and his clients, a fortune.
Obviously, making waves this big attracts attention and Burry’s actions eventually get him noticed by a few others that look to cash in on the banker’s foresight and savvy. Catching the eye of Jared Vennet (Ryan Gosling – who also serves as a narrator of sorts), a trader smart enough to see that Burry is right and poised to make a fortune; he in turn mistakenly lets slip to a couple of traders who work for another hedge fund manager, Steve Carell’s Mark Baum, who also jumps in on the action. As the money hungry bankers are ridiculed for their predictions, more dodgy practices and money magic is discovered that takes the men’s predictions quickly from probable to inevitable and the men go all in; betting their reputations and other people’s fortunes against the incoming crash.
Do you want to know the thing about The Big Short that makes me love it so much? It isn’t the amazing cast. A cast that includes Brad Pitt, Melissa Leo and Marissa Tomei on top of those I’ve already mentioned that all chew the scenery up at any point they are on the screen; and it isn’t the direction from comedy veteran Adam McKay, a guy that can drag a laugh from almost anyone with his films – even if most of them do star Will Ferrell, I won’t hold that against him.
What this film has, much like Wall Street did but, say, The Wolf of Wall Street didn’t, was the ability to explain to me what was going on on-screen as it was happening. I learned a little bit and understood what was happening as it happened because the film let me understand it. More importantly, the book this film was based on was written by Michael Lewis; the same author that wrote the books that would later become Moneyball and The Blind Side. Much like the baseball drama and football biopic did before our film today, they explained what was going on without patronising me or making me feel like a complete imbecile; and that’s a miracle all on its own, especially since when it comes to finance, I am borderline retarded.
The Big Short is a surprisingly funny film that has a very serious message running through it. It’s a scathing look at the financial situation we all found ourselves in in the mid-2000’s and the people that put us there while simultaneously giving us that knew bugger all about what happened a lesson or two in the economics of stealing from the world. The film wonderfully balances the poking fun at the slew of true stories put to film recently with the stark warning that we will face another collapse if we don’t pay attention to the slick bastards in slicker suits.
This amazing film should be required viewing for anyone with a need to be able to spend the money in their wallets; it’s a harsh reminder of things of the past and a warning for our future. But just as important, at least as far as these last few paragraphs are concerned, is that it’s a brilliantly made film that kept me glued to the screen the entire time.