Movie Title: The Big Short
First Watch / Repeat Viewing
Running Time: 2 hr. and 10 min.
Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo
Where did I watch it?: Home
The Big Short is the story of several people who predicted the housing bubble and taking advantage of credit default swaps used their knowledge to buy positions that made them fabulously rich. They are portrayed as generally decent people that took advantage of a corrupt system. Michael Burry (Christian Bale) figured out that the insurance policies taken out on subprime mortgages were fraudulent after running the numbers on the mortgages that were inside the policies. No one else had bothered to look into the mortgages, so no one realized what was being marketed as AAA investments were valueless. None of his compatriots in the firm respected his savant-like opinion and treated him poorly because of it.
After Burry some others got wind of the market opportunity and looked for an opportunity to make money on it. Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) was one of those people. He went around the New York banking system and attempted to peddle shorts on mortgage insurances. No one took him up on it until he ran into Mark Baum (Steve Carrell) who took a more realistic approach than Burry. Burry was a numbers man. Baum didn’t believe what he was looking at. He looked at the situation and saw something that was such a mess he couldn’t believe it was real. He went to Miami and surveyed the situation first hand with remarkable clarity. He realized the numbers weren’t lying and invested heavily in credit default swaps.
The last interesting duo is Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) who go into league with Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) a former trader turned rich paranoid survivalist. They wade in as small size venture capitalists operating out of a garage in Colorado. They are by far the least interesting of the bunch, but they tread in the same water as the others, and were somewhat more bold. Their story felt kind of unnecessary to the movie at times.
Ultimately, The Big Short does three things really well. The first is explaining complex and convoluted terminology used in fraudulent banking practices. Some of the terms in the movie I was familiar with, but as the movie went deeper I did not. It explains them using celebrities like Margot Robbie in a bath tub drinking champagne or Anthony Bourdain chopping up old fish. It’s great. Because it is understandable, it also makes you realize just how fucked up American investment, banking, and business ethics are. The second thing it does well is show a diverse reaction to success. These men made millions if not billions of dollars, yet not all of them were happy with the outcome. Some saw themselves as part of the system, some were brazen about their wealth. It shows the people that work in banking as more than a monolithic corporation. They are people. The last thing it does is poke fun at how so little has changed and how we are getting ready to do it all over again while we blame the poor, immigrants, union workers, teachers, and of course millenials for why the economy blew up last time. Meanwhile everyone got away with it and are back up to their old tricks. This will happen again.
The Big Short is an economic cautionary tale. It is a cautionary tale more people should see. See it.
Tomorrow’s Movie: Game Night (2018)