This year movie lovers and even casual movie goers have had the great privilege of several movies having an outstanding ensemble casts. Films like Spotlight and Trumbo and The Hateful Eight, immediately come to mind. Another one of those movies is The Big Short which is loaded top to bottom with A-list talent.
The Big Short is the true story of 2008’s housing market collapse and the very small handful of people who saw it coming and how they not only profited, but attempted to open the eyes of key people and banking institutions to the crisis that was on the horizon.
The great thing about this cast is that there really isn’t a lead character. Adam McKay perfectly divides the three separate stories of these individuals and groups so that no one character dominates the screen. Steve Carell is nominated for a Golden Globe in the lead actor category as is Christian Bale due to their time being so evenly split. There is not a single bad performance in this movie, from the bit players (which includes Marisa Tomei) to the heavy screen time actors.
The film starts with an explanation of how banking and the housing market became a cash cow for investors over 30 years before the whole thing came crashing down. Narrated by Ryan Gosling, who is also one of the most entertaining parts of the story.
The first of the foreseers to be introduced is Dr. Michael Burry portrayed by Christian Bale. He is an awkward and unconventional trader and analyst. The head of a hedge fund who is almost considered reclusive, he begins to look into the housing market when he notices that even during the tech bubble collapse, the housing market in areas hardest hit by the collapse, still managed to go up. The further he looks into subprime and adjustable rate mortgages, the more he realizes the country is only a few years away from complete financial disaster. When he goes around town wanting to short these, he is seen as unstable and completely crazy.
The second group of investors to be featured really centers around two people, Mark Baum, played by Steve Carell, who is a short tempered hedge fund manager who is dealing with personal tragedy and is tired of seeing hard working people taken advantage of. When Jared Vannett finds his way into Baum’s office and shows his team the holes in the housing market. Baum and his guys decide to investigate first hand just how out of hand things are. After a trip to a particularly exposed area, they see that Vannett wasn’t just blowing smoke, but he was right and decide to invest.
The final team are two small investors who attempt to join a team at JP Morgan Chase and stumble upon one of Vannett’s prospectus left in the lobby and see a way they can make it work. They enlist the help of a disgruntled and retired. Banker, Ben Rickert played by Brad Pitt. Rickert has turned his back on the financial world and has seen disaster coming, not in the housing market, but in the financial system as a whole. Rickert helps his friends, but also sees nothing but more disaster on the horizon.
The greatness of this movie comes in the fact that, as much as they throw around banking and investing terms, they also explain the lesser known aspects that played a major role in the entire collapse.
The Big Short is completely terrifying. To see the way, not only the U.S. economy, but the world economy is so fragile and at the same time, so corrupted, should be enough to scare anyone to the core. Adam McKay has done a masterful job of transitioning from slapstick comedic director to telling a compelling story without losing a taste of humor. Look for The Big Short to be contending and winning throughout award season. It is without a doubt one of the most important films of the year.