“The Big Short” is a film that it’s nearly impossible to go into without expectations. Whether you’ve read the book or not, all of us lived through and were touched by these events in one way or another.
That being said, my expectations for this film were that I was going to walk out of the movie theater filled with unbridled rage. Against all odds, that’s not what happened.
Don’t get me wrong, the events leading up to the bursting of the housing bubble and those following it are still infuriating to me, but what Adam McKay (and I suppose the original author, Michael Lewis) accomplish in “The Big Short,” is nothing short of a miracle. They make the world of finance palatable. Not only that, they make you want to know more.
The film focuses not on one Wall Street crony, but several all with different motives, and levels of experience. There’s the conscience-free bond salesman from Deutsche Bank (Ryan Gosling), the money manager with a guilty conscience (Steve Carrell), the veteran hedge fund manager with a glass eye (Christian Bale), and the newby hedge fund managers who don’t know an ISDA from a clearing agreement (John Magaro and Finn Wittrock) along with their disillusioned mentor (Brad Pitt).
Despite their differences, they do have one thing in common—they see what’s coming and they bet against the banks and the US housing market.
If your eyes are already starting to glaze over due to all the references to the market, banks, and Wall Street, well, I can’t blame you. It is boring, but bear with me.
What the film does incredibly well is explain complex terms such as ISDAs or CDOs. In addition to almost completely doing away with the fourth wall, the film also utilizes some incredibly unqualified “experts” (who I won’t spoil for you) to dumb down/explain some of the more technical terms. Even if you don’t follow everything they’re saying, it makes for a nice change of scenery.
The style and pace of the film keep you engaged the entire two or so hours. While no one walks away smelling like roses you do actually care about the film’s central characters, however questionable their motivation might be.
Barring a major upset, it won’t take home the big prize on Oscar night, but it’s worth seeing, if for no other reason than to get a different and interesting perspective on the biggest financial crisis of our time (hopefully). Will it make you angry? Possibly, but it will also make you think and question, which is a lot more powerful than blind rage.
…just for fun: