Matt Adcock reviews The Big Short, starring Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt and Christian Bale
When the words ‘corruption’ and ‘banking’ became synonymous during the world-wide financial crisis of 2008, millions of people’s lives were wrecked, but not everyone’s.
Adam ‘Anchorman’ McKay’s The Big Short takes us inside the true story of how a few men foresaw the crash and managed to actually make money from the situation.
And while witnessing the callous, greed-driven nightmare that took people’s homes and livelihoods from them will make you potentially want to punch the next banker you meet, this is ‘must see’ filmmaking.
Meet Michael Burry (Christian ‘The Dark Knight’ Bale), a maverick ex-physician who runs a hedge fund. He is the first to spot that the US housing market’s foundations are built on a volatile bubble that looks like it will burst.
So convinced is he about this doomsday scenario that Burry places a huge bet (known as a short) against the housing market with the banks – who are more than happy to take this ‘crazy’ bet against something that just never happens.
Meanwhile market trader Jared Vennett (Ryan ‘Drive’ Gosling) gets wind of what Burry is doing and looks to also cash in. Then a wrong number phone call tips off another small team of fund managers led by Mark Baum (Steve ‘Foxcatcher’ Carell) and the final bunch to the party are young investors Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock).
These two have a secret weapon in the form of retired master banker Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) who agrees to help them. This ragtag bunch of outsiders are thought to be crying wolf but as the crisis escalates, well, it’s not a spoiler because we know what went down, they actually make serious money when everybody else was losing big time. Burry’s fund sees 489 per cent profits on their gamble.
The Big Short does a good job of making the hard-to-comprehend world of subprime loans, collateralised debt obligations and AAA credit ratings into a darkly comic thrill ride. The cast are fantastic, making what could have been a hard slog of a tale bounce along with energy and believable humanity. If this had been a fictional account you might have said it was too far fetched to believe, but the fact that it happened and we’re still feeling the financial fallout from it is absolutely terrifying.
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