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The Big Short: Movie Review

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When the housing market bubble burst in the mid to late 2000s it led to arguably the worst financial crisis in our nation’s history. No matter what you think of the victims of the shady loan practices that led to the collapse, one thing most everyone can agree on is that a tremendous breach of ethics by the banks was a major contributing factor. Now, if you’re like me you are probably fairly ignorant to the dynamics of finance in America and how financial practices led to this catastrophe. You may be able to conversationally offer something along the lines of, “Man, Wall Street, am I right?” to which everyone in the room will solemnly nod their approval, but the details of what happened and how we arrived at that horrible conclusion likely escape you. You probably don’t fully comprehend how a handful of eccentric Wall Street brokers managed to turn everyone else’s nightmare into a windfall for themselves and their investors. But you should. You should learn everything you can about this dark period of American history because knowledge is power and those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. Perhaps a good place to start would be Adam McKay’s feature film adaptation of Michael Lewis’ best-selling novel The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, titled more simply, The Big Short.THE BIG SHORT_1

In The Big Short Christian Bale plays Michael Burry, a socially inept yet brilliant fund manager who first discovers that the housing bubble is in danger of collapsing and decides to take advantage of the dilemma by essentially betting against the banks. Once word gets out about what Burry has been up to, other Wall Street outliers take heed and follow in his footsteps leveraging their own financial success against the wellbeing of the American people.

THE BIG SHORT_2The Big Short works phenomenally well as a fictitious take on actual events. It plays as a documentary at times, doing as good a job of explain the foibles of banking and Wall Street to the layman as can be expected in a theatrical forum. It also creates dynamic characters that make the story breathe. Most notably, Steve Carrell as Mark Baum, another fund manager crippled by personal tragedy and an overabundance of conscience unbefitting his profession, gives the story something of a hero to rally behind. Of course, this is where The Big Short fails as a true account of the real life market collapse. These men were gambling on failure. They profited enormously from the doom of many others nearly as much as the banks had up until that point. To make heroes out of these men is not the easiest sell.

The Big Short_3The greatest real world asset this film has going for it is aforementioned way it explains the financial terminology and the events of that crisis in a way that the average person can more easily comprehend than those in the market would prefer-a point the film makes early on that is hard to argue. This is no easy task, considering it’s still a lot to take in, but it’s a terrific place to start.

The Big Short has a flashy style and impressive acting from players too numerous to mention here. It is sure to be an academy favorite if not an awards season juggernaut. On top of that, it is a great introduction to understanding one of the most important moments in our recent history. It’s well worth the price of admission.

The Big Short (2015)
Director:  Adam McKay
Studio:  Paramount
Genre:  Drama/Comedy
MPAA:  R
Release Date:  December 21st, 2015
Author:  Steve Hanning

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