As the housing bubble is about to burst, no one seemed to see it coming. Michael Burry (Christian Bale) is a bit of an odd man. Despite that, he always seems to know what trends are coming in the trading world. When he realizes that things about to take a sudden downturn, he makes a bold move. He decides to bet against the housing market.
As a few small traders start to get wind of Burry’s idea, they take a closer look at the housing market. Mark Baum (Steve Carrell) and his group, being courted by Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), decide to get in on the action. It seems highly risky, but could have a huge payoff.
Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) and Charlie Geller (John Magaro) are two small traders working out of a garage. While trying to get a license to trade at the “big boys’ table,” they come across a proposal for shorting the housing market. They convince former trader Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) to help them get the license and start dealing in shorts.
The big investment houses willingly take these investors up on their shorts. Greed gets the better of them, seeing this as easy money, and having no idea what is about to happen.
The Big Short is based on the true story of investors shorting the housing market leading up to the massive crash that happened in the mid-2000s.
The subject of the film is a dry topic, to say the least. It very easily could have turned into a very long (130 minutes), very boring movie. Director and screenplay writer Adam McKay, known more for his collaborations with Will Ferrell (Step Brothers, Talladega Nights), fortunately, gives us something much more than it should have been.
Armed with a stellar leading cast, McKay makes the story interesting. He takes his trademark comedy and infuses it into the film to give it just enough edge to make it entertaining, while keeping enough facts and information to give it some credibility. Any time we encounter confusing financial terms, McKay brings in some celebrities explain them to us in terms we can understand. It breaks the fourth wall with enough tongue in cheek that you actually pay attention.
I get nervous when films pack so many A-listers onto the roster. It can easily become a diversion to hide poor writing. Fortunately, the leads are more than just big names to draw audiences. Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, and Steve Carrell, among the others show why they have become such big names. Their charms and talents come through in their characters while staying true enough to make them believable. The supporting cast just compliments these performances, making them that much better.
The Big Short is an eye-opening true story that lets us see just how deep the troubles ran in the housing market at the time. And it is frightening, as they spell out in the end, that it could very easily, and very likely will happen again. Most importantly, it’s told in a way that’s easy to understand and actually entertains. Sadly, the movie will most likely get buried. After you’ve seen The Force Awakens for the third or fourth time, make sure you see The Big Short.