The Big Short is a biographical comedy-drama directed by Adam McKay (Don't Look Up) who co-wrote the film with Charles Randolph.
Based on the 2010 book The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis, the movie is a crazy look at how the US housing bubble triggered the financial crisis of 2007–2008.
It was a critical and commercial success, grossing $133 million on a $50 million budget.
But what is it all about, and is it worth watching?
What Is The Big Short About?
Lewis tells the story of a small group who predicted the housing market crash brought on by bad loans.
So the film comes at the subject from three different angles – Michael Burry (Christian Bale) at Scion Capital, Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) and Mark Baum (Steve Carell) at Deutsche Bank and FrontPoint Partners and Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) at Brownfield Capital.
Michael Burry was one of the first to analyse the market and understand that the bubble was about to burst. He argued that the interest rates would rise, people wouldn't be able to afford their mortgages and the housing market would collapse.
So he created a credit default swap market, allowing him to short market-based mortgage-backed securities for profit.
At the same time, Jared Vennett is one of the first to understand Burry's analysis and verifies that Burry is most likely correct. So he decides to enter the market but alerts hedge fund manager Mark Baum who buys swaps from Vennett.
Simply put, the packaging of subprime loans into collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) will guarantee their eventual collapse.
Then we have young investors Geller and Shipley who run a small firm called Brownfield Capital. They accidentally discover Vennett's presentation which convinces them to invest in swaps.
The problem they have is that they fall below the capital threshold for an ISDA Master Agreement which is required to enter into trades. So they enlist the aid of Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), a retired securities trader.
When the bond values and CDOs rise despite defaults, the trio learned that the SEC has no regulations to monitor mortgage-backed security activity.
So basically, The Big Short gives us the broad picture of how a few people realised the housing market was about to collapse in on itself because the banks got greedy. So they bet against it, making a small fortune as people across the US lost their homes and their life savings.
But even though they made money, this isn't a movie about the bad guys but the good guys who could see it coming, who were completely ignored so they decided to make money off of it.
The Big Short Official Trailer
Is The Big Short Worth Watching?
Adam McKay does a fantastic job with this difficult story. McKay is famous for films like Anchorman, Step Brothers and Talladega Nights, but here he tackles a very serious subject and delivers it with a subtle blend of dark comedy and tragedy.
There are strange cameos from the likes of Margot Robbie (Amsterdam), who give dumbed-down explanations of CDOs, credit default swaps and what a short is.
Plus, McKay has a number of characters breaking the fourth wall to keep the audience engaged as they talk about the role of the Federal Reserve Bank, credit rating agencies and various financial institutions.
It is fair to say the cast is fantastic. Christian Bale pulls an award-winning performance as Michael Burry. Ryan Gosling is brilliant playing a superbly vain executive from Deutsche Bank. He also narrates the story throughout the film.
Brad Pitt is great, but the real stand-out is Steve Carrell (The Patient). Carrell plays Mark Baum (based on Steve Eisman), who worked for a unit of Morgan Stanley. His performance is tragically powerful and magnifies how absurd the whole situation was.
Overall, for a movie that is based on wall street investment banks and finance, generally, a subject that is not that exciting – The Big Short does a fantastic job.
I really expected this film to be a bit of a grind. However, I was totally engaged from start to finish and the two hours flashed by.
If, like most of us, the financial crisis was a little overwhelming, this film is a must-watch.
Cast Of The Big Short
Christian Bale as Michael Burry: one of the first people to discover the American housing market bubble.
Steve Carell as Mark Baum: the leader of FrontPoint Partners, a small independent trading firm.
Ryan Gosling as Jared Vennett: a salesman from Deutsche Bank who decides to sell Burry's credit default swaps for his own profit.
Brad Pitt as Ben Rickert: a retired former trader who helps Jamie and Charlie with their trades.
John Magaro as Charlie Geller: one half of Brownfield Fund based on Cornwall Capital.
Finn Wittrock as Jamie Shipley: Charlie's partner in Brownfield Fund.
Hamish Linklater as Porter Collins: one of Baum's team.
Rafe Spall as Danny Moses: one of Baum's team.
Jeremy Strong as Vinny Daniel: one of Baum's team.
Marisa Tomei as Cynthia Baum: Mark Baum's wife.