The Big Short (7/10)

The Big Short

This is a true story.


The men who made millions from a global economic meltdown.

Title The Big Short
Director Adam McKay
Director of Photography Barry Ackroyd
Runtime 2 h 10 min
Certification R
Release Date 11 December 2015
Tagline This is a true story.
IMDb Id tt1596363

We are still living (the aftermath of…?) the global financial crisis that took the economy into recession starting in 2008. But it didn’t start in 2008 of course. It started over a decade earlier when investment banks found new ways of packaging debt. Then they evolved these new markets further by creating products consisting of funds consisting of bonds consisting of shares in packaged debt consisting of subprime mortgages. And these new markets were just as intransparent as the previous sentence was. But not to worry: the financial ratings agencies all rate these wonderful products AAA so there is little risk involved.

Well, some people didn’t buy that in the early 2000s and started to do their homework. And the more homework they did, the clearer it became that this was one huge bubble, some would say created by a web of greed and incompetence. So, being good capitalists themselves, these people shorted the market (=betting against the market) for as much as they could afford or get their hands on. Between them they made a few billion by shorting the markets this way when the bubble finally did pop.

The Big Short is based on true stories, and it tells these stories in a smart and fast-paced way, using big names in key roles, like Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Steve Carell and Brad Pitt. It also makes use of a number of cameos – time-out moments where an irrelevant celeb explains a key financial concept for the layman viewer: Margot Robbie explaining subprime mortgages in a bubble bath and Selena Gomez explaining Collaterised Debt Obligations in a casino are some examples. Really.

It is quite an enjoyable movie. Good pacing and lots of energy. If it weren’t based on true stories and a real global financial crisis it would not be a good movie at all – the approach taken only works as you get drawn in by the reality of it. The movie struggles a little bit with its ‘heroes’: the movie clearly tries to paint Big Banks as Bad Guys who are greedy and like to make everything as convoluted as possible so they can do whatever they want to make yet more money, and not necessarily for the banks – but probably even more so for the bankers themselves. The irony of course is that the movie’s heroes also do just that – bet all they can to privately walk away with hundreds of millions… The few moments Steve Carell gets to show some moral outrage about this are not enough to be considered balanced. But forget that – the overall movie is an entertaining and compelling watch.


The Big Short (7/10)
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