Subprime Mortgage: “Subprime refers to higher the risk. These are mortgages that are issued to individuals who are often not qualified. That is, the long term monthly mortgage payment is more than their income. Often, these mortgages are issued on the expectation that the homeowners income will rise in the future. These mortgages are often made feasible by teaser rates. This means that the rate might be very low for the first few years but then rise steeply. In periods of weakness in the housing market or the economy in general, these mortgages are the first to run into trouble”.-

The Big Short is an exciting movie about one of the densest subjects for most people to wrap their brains around, economics.  Writer/director Adam McKay isn’t talking about your basic Economics 101 here, where we’re introduced to the simple ideas of markets and divisions of labor.  No.  This film tackles the convoluted topic of the 2008 housing market crash that left millions homeless, five trillion dollars missing, and the few people who successfully predicted this collapse and bet not only their money but reputations on one of the biggest frauds ever perpetrated on the American people.  It’s a miracle that this film is digestible, the subject is difficult to understand, even with celebrities like Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez (who play themselves) breaking the fourth wall in an attempt to break down the situation in layman’s terms.  The Big Short is an important film for every American to see, and brought to us by the the director known for films like Anchorman and Step Brothers.  It sounds crazy, but McKay shows he has the chops to direct with the best of them.

First the story…

In 2005 hedge fund manager Michael Burry (Christian Bale) discovered something unstable in the “oh-so-stable” housing market, it was built on fraud and destined to crash.  He bet his entire fortune that in the second quarter of 2007, this stable market would crash. and that he,

can profit from this situation by creating a credit default swap market, allowing him to bet against the housing market; he visits numerous banks with this idea, and the banks, believing that the housing market is secure, accept his proposal.- wikipedia

Following Burry’s lead, and betting they would profit from this crash, we are lead along this journey with hedge fund manager Mark Baum (Steve Carell), retired banker Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), and his young disciples Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock).

There are a number of ways in which the film helps guide the audience along for the ride.  They are but not limited to Margot Robbie in a bath tub talking directly to the viewer, definitions of financial terms directly on screen, quick cuts of pop-culture, or McKay bringing his comedic touch on an extremely boring subject.  It may be boring to discus economics, yet it’s affected the entire country and world.  McKay was able to bring this complicated story to an exciting form.  This was done with complex characters, who against your better judgement, you find yourself rooting for.

These economic outsiders are led by the narrator/bond salesman played by Ryan Gosling.  Narrating through the fourth wall, breaking down definitions and numerous characters he must be based on.  Gosling is a comfortable yet terrible person who takes us through this tale, which much like the people that represent these institutions are charming yet reprehensible.  Gosling does Gosling, but it’s Bale who shines through the rest.  Sure Carell is good (minus that hairpiece), Bale who hardly stand up in the film is the one who shines.   Yet, even his performance is trumped by a list of actors that could be labeled in the “greatest hits” section of your local record shop.  Melissa Leo for example, is used in one scene.  One.  McKay seems to have gotten everyone he ever wanted to work with together and made one fantastic picture.

Much like 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street, The Big Short highlights despicable people making money on the backs of others.  Unlike Scorsese’s picture, this film follows slightly “better” people, in a way the average consumer can get behind.  They are outsiders (much like anybody reading this) is, and in that, we can get behind them.  Their story is told in a way that makes sense.  Adapted from a difficult novel, of the same name, The Big Short is better than a documentary, and is what our current presidential candidates should be discussing.  Without-a-doubt, this film is important.  See it.  It is a must.  Our monetary futures depend on it.  Having said that, I’m still not completely sure what it’s talking about.

About the Author

Peter Towe
Peter Towe
A graduate of UMASS Boston, I have successfully put off getting a "real" job, and continue to watch, produce, review, and obsess over movies. I lived in Boston while I completed my degree, and now live in Chicago trying the improv thing.