Distributor: Plan B Entertainment
Director: Adam McKay
Writers: Adam McKay, Michael Lewis
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Brad Pitt, Christian Bale
Genre: Based on a True Story, Historical
Rated: R for language and nudity
Do you remember in 2008 when many freaked out about a financial crisis? People lost their homes, gas increased to three dollars, and jobs sunk to an all-time low. The Big Short knows how this happened because of a huge flaw in the housing and banking industry. Using the story based on a book by Michael Lewis (The Blind Side, Money Ball), Adam McKay sets out to prove that learning about residential economics can be fun, but we can also learn about corrupt business practices that impact us as citizens.
Michael Burry (Christian Bale) is an eccentric, one-eyed introvert whose genius makes him the sole manager of Scion Capitol’s money. In his last research, he found a fatal flaw in the housing market. It appears that millions of people will be defaulting on their loans in 2008. He sets up shares to bet against the housing market. The banks are more than happy to grant him these, because the housing market has never failed.
Meanwhile, Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) of Deutschebank finds out about Michael Burry’s new idea and does the research. He finds out that the banks are pulling the wool over America’s eyes and that the economy will crash very soon. He starts buying up shares. Then Mark Baum (Steve Carrell), an investor at FrontPoint, gets an errant phone call that tips off his team to get on board with betting against the housing market. He is a moralist who feels the urge to destroy corrupt businesses.
Finally, two very young business men in a startup called Brownfield, Charlie Gellar and Jamie Shipley (John Magaro and Finn Wittrock), get the help of retired trader, Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), to help them bet against the housing bubble. These three paths, Burry, Vennett/Baum, and Shipley/Gellar unearth the startling facts that the housing market is either made of very ignorant or very corrupt people. The result is that hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes because the bank saw a way to get rich quick without any responsibility for their actions. The journey leads to the demise of 2008 and the eventual bailouts from the government.
Sex/Nudity: Two strip club events show bare-chested women. Mark interviews one of these women while she dances half naked. The movie doesn’t need it, but try convincing a rated R director not to show nudity.
Swearing: The F-word is dropped at least thirty times along with the A, S, D, and B words. The Lord’s name is mentioned a couple times. Mark Baum seems to be the main user of these swear words because of his constant anger.
Positive Elements: Adam McKay’s true aim is to expose the greed and ignorance of Wall Street. He tells the true story of how three different investment teams learned about the horrible truth of the housing industry. We should all be soberly aware that our world is full of selfishness and greed, how people with power and riches can be very evil. That kind of deception in an attempt to get rich has hurt the lives of many. It is one of the main reasons that God allowed other powers to take over Israel and Judah in the Old Testament. As Christians we should be aware that power and money still has a dirty grip on those who live in the West (and it’s happening now).
By all definitions of the words “Housing Market” this movie should be bland as all, representing the consistency of dry toast with a sand topping. In order to explain how America lost its home, The Big Short must mull over the details of sub-prime mortgages, CDO’s, AAA housing, and stuff like that. Fortunately for us, the movie is still fast-paced, well-written and with some humor thrown in. In fact, Ryan Gosling will break the fourth wall to narrate what is happening in the story like we are getting a tour.
Scenes of American culture, history, and indie music videos at the time of 2007 will interrupt the story in different collages. This is art and film making with a major case of ADHD, which means that it is a shoe-in for an Oscar (see Birdman). Seems like every movie that tries to throw wild camera angles, offbeat narrations, and irregular storytelling gets a shot at an Oscar. At other points of the story the movie will try to explain a confusing housing market term by inviting a celebrity to casually explain it using everyday terms. Margot Robbie explains what a subprime mortgage is while sipping champagne in a bubble bath. My favorite is Selena Gomez playing a game of Blackjack, trying to explain fabricated CDO’s.
But even with all the explanation and the movie’s fast-paced writing the Big Short can be very wordy. It can’t avoid it because of the subject matter, but that just means you need to learn a lot about the housing market to fully grasp the whole plot. Thankfully, you don’t need to know this stuff to fully enjoy the movie. The bottom line is that Adam McKay wants to write social commentary on how clueless our banks can be with real people’s money. His portrayal of the subject can be very sarcastic and deep hitting, but you will definitely feel the need for justice.
The characters, based on real life people, are very colorful and humorous. The star studded cast of Pitt, Bale, Gosling, and Carrell makes for some very strong on-screen chemistry. These guys can be funny, sad, heartbreaking, and sinister when they want to. But also the supporting cast of John Magaro, Hamish Linklater, Jeffry Griffin, Jeremy Strong, and Finn Wittrock do an exceptional job of complimenting the poster stars. Here is what I thought of each star’s performance:
Jared (Ryan Gosling)- He plays a strong businessman, who occasionally sympathizes with the audience. He makes an excellent guide for the viewers. I am glad they gave him a shot.
Mark (Steve Carrell)- Loud and obnoxious like someone from my Italian relatives. Underneath his irritated exterior, he has a gold heart of righteousness, but man, is it rough like steel wool.
Michael (Christian Bale)- A very quiet genius, with a nonthreatening way of explaining how smart he is. He plays the drums and blasts death metal, while his eccentric smarts makes money.
Ben (Brad Pitt)- The older, wiser sage of Wall Street. Ben is a recluse who believes the government is spying on him. Not much screen time of him, but he is a gem when he appears.
If you choose to go along for the ride, you will learn a ton about the housing market and big business corruption. You will also be confused and dragged down by the movie’s heavy Wall Street plot. But amidst the deep lingo there is a lot to cheer, boo, laugh, and cry about in The Big Short.
+ Excellent acting from the big four + I learned a lot + I felt a lot + ADHD story telling
- Heavy housing market terms to overcome - Is the nudity really necessary?
The Bottom Line
If you choose to go along for the ride, you will learn a ton about the housing market and big business corruption. You will also be confused and dragged down by the movie's heavy Wall Street plot, but amidst the deep lingo there is a lot to cheer, boo, laugh and cry about in The Big Short.