While all the box office excitement seems to be centered around Star Wars right now, The Big Short is much more relevant to our own physical peril than anything happening in a galaxy far, far away. This is the story of the run-up to the Wall Street meltdown that began in 2007, and resulted in the Great Recession and downturn of 2008.
In 2010, Inside Job, tackled the story line of these events in a smart documentary, which won the Oscar that year in that category.
Few stories have consolidated the events that led up to the Wall Street collapse of 2008 better than this. Now we are, at last, given a screenplay in dramatic form that does not deal in fictional substitute characters,
but one that identifies the culprits, unlike 2011's Margin Call, which tells a similar story, in which three investment bankers are caught up in a frantic 36-hour attempt to save a nameless investment corporation from impending implosion.
The Big Short does not dance around with nameless banks. It names names, including the great lending and investment corporations of our time, with the word "great" used here only to imply size and scale -- not integrity or lasting worth -- Goldman Sachs, Bear Stearns, JP Morgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual, Countrywide Financial, and Merrill Lynch, along with the spineless Wall Street Journal, and an unexpected insight into just how Standard and Poor arrives at its decisions to rate these mega-banks.
This is the corrupt core of the Big Apple's banking and investment system, which pumped up the illusion of value by selling variable-rate, sub-prime mortgages to unsuspecting home buyers and then, in turn, sold those bundles of debt to the market as secure asset investment bonds, known as derivatives. And when the variable rates "varied," many borrowers could no longer meet the increased monthly payments, this hollow scheme fell in upon itself, and this is what caused the massive downturn of 2008. This movie lays out the sequence of events in a clear and informative manner -- so clear in fact, that if you pay close attention to the closing comments, you will see that the groundwork for a repeat of this monumental scam is being laid again -- right now -- as these huge banking firms are pressuring our bought-and-sold Congress to undo the reforms of Dodd-Frank.
Much credit (if you'll forgive the term) for the brilliance of this story goes to Producer Brad Pitt, who also stars as one of the investors, Ben Rickett, a keen observer of market conditions, who methodically constructs the counter-measures to cash in on the wreckage that is foreseen by Michael Burry, portrayed quite annoyingly at first by Christian Bale -- a situation which soon morphs into one of Bale's finest performances in years. Ryan Gosling's phony hair color is also a distraction, and remains so all the way through to the conclusion. Steve Carell excels at playing obnoxious characters, never more so than here, as investment analyst and hedge fund manager, Mark Baum, a terrific role. Kudos also for Michael Lewis, for his screenplay and the original book.
Once again, the so-called "liberal Hollywood elites" have given us a product with far more truth than anything we can ever expect from conservative billionaire investment fund and securities CEO's.
I highly recommend this motion picture for anyone who might be interested in the actual value of their "futures".
-- Thomas Ormsby