Like most millennials, I usually experience slight heart palpitations when words like “sub-prime mortgage” and “credit rating” are used. The Big Short takes these work and explains the concepts we hear everyday and how they helped to contribute to the housing collapse and recession in 2008. You might think, oh, is this an educational documentary? Nope. The Big Short is adapted from Michael Lewis’s book of the same name and includes an all star cast of Steve Carrell, Brad Pitt, and Ryan Gosling. Who explain how the financial crisis went down and play the people who knew it was going to happen.
The film focuses on a select group of hedge fund managers and bankers whose main goal is to bet against the system. Before 2008, the housing market was seen as infallible, however Michael Burry, (played by Christian Bale) sees that the once impenetrable housing loans are now being handed out to anyone regardless of credit. This created “sub-prime mortgage’s where the homeowner could not pay the bank back which in turn had the bank lending out money that wasn’t being repaid – resulting in massive foreclosures.
The film starts in the early 2000’s when the economy is booming and leads up to the months after the collapse giving a well rounded timeframe to crisis and shows how unaware the general public was of the whole issue. It also highlights the excellent acting by the main cast and supporting characters, especially Carrell, who over the course of the film transforms from greedy and crude to defeated knowing that the rich bankers who started the collapse would not get penalized and it would hurt the middle class the most. The A-list talent and snappy dialogue help to hide the generally lackluster visual aesthetic and cinematography.
Throughout the film director Adam McKay explains the crisis and other complicated financial terms by breaking the fourth wall and having celebrities like Selena Gomez explain them to the viewer. This tongue and check method captures the viewers attention while trying to actually help the viewer understand the concepts instead confusing words by boring old men.
The Big Short is fun, a little flashy, and in the end is a sobering view on how the housing crisis was created and encouraged by greed and disregard on wall street and beyond.
The Big Short is available to stream on Netflix