The 2008 economic crisis is long behind us. So why not go back and take a look at a number of people who saw it coming and made loads of money as a result? How about we stick them in the cell with Bernie Madoff instead and have them rig the market to reimburse the losses for the rest of us. Nah, that’s not the spirit of The Big Short, and you’ll have no problem juxtaposing what could be considered a bunch of misery merchants for farsighted heroes in this revealing Adam McKay film.
The inconsistencies of the main characters shifted, the 2015 film does a remarkable job of not selling the drama short - especially when the outcome is already laid out for anyone with rudimentary knowledge of the stock market. “These mortgages bonds that were supposedly 65 percent AAA, were actually just, basically full of shit. So now I’m going to short the bonds which means... bet against,” investment guru Michael Burry (Christian Bale) lays out the basics and his intent to go all in on the bubble to come.
Atlas Shrugs We Pay
2008 Economic Crisis - No one is Listening
But why not fire a warning shot? Given all those eager to take the other end of his short, no one would have listened, and Bale doesn’t really need to endear himself to the paying audience by saving the world. All the sympathy required comes across in a pure numbers guy who can only derive purpose through analytics and is pained by the mysteries of human contact. “Even when I try to compliment... It somehow... it comes out wrong,” Bale engenders understanding in his delivery.
A non-confrontational hairstyle from supercuts and expressionless eyes that implore a hearing says just as much, but what Bale lacks in emotion Steve Carrel provides for in flat-out rage. The commodities broker bursts on the screen and envelopes the moving imagery as if four corners aren’t enough to contain his fury. “How can you sleep at night, knowing... That you're ripping off working people,” Mark Baum’s sheer vibration and personal instability brings self-righteousness to a new level.
In contrast, Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) and Charlie Geller (John Magaro) have no problem plateauing as cowboys on the frontier of incomprehensible market mathematics. “Our investment-strategy was simple. People hate to think about bad things happening so they always underestimate their likelihood. Markets will sell options very cheaply on things they think will never happen. So, when they were wrong, they were wrong small. But when they were right... They were right big! Boooooom,” Bale narrates and the 2008 Housing Crisis Explained.
2008 Housing Crisis Explained
Not quite, so we get the likes of Anthony Bordain and Selena Gomez to bring sense to the math “I ordered my fish on Friday, which is the mortgage bond that Michael Burry shorted. But... some of the fish doesn't sell.. So... what am I gonna do? Throw all this unsold fish, which is the BBB-level of bond, in the garbage? Every crappy level of the bond I don't sell... I throw into a seafood stew. It's not old fish! It's a whole new thing! The best part is... They're eating retailed halibut! That... is a CDO,” he breaks it down and gets a little snarky so we forget to seethe.
Nonetheless, we oscillate as The Big Short tries not to take the tragedy too seriously, while having us fume the cascade of corruption that hung the world out to dry. But where are the stakes when the impending payout brings a 10-1 return.
As Corrupt as a $3 Bill
Well corruption has a way of stratifying the layers so anyone who tries to disrupt the duplicity tires or is beaten into submission. Those still left breathing require time and money to bring the conspiracy to the fore. So our heroes are constantly on the verge of financial cataclysm - leaving the audience hedging in their seats and trying to balance the ledger.
But what of the emotional toll of betting on the end of the world. At worst they lick their wounds and walk away or just walk away. Either way, they’re well paid and you’re ok with it.