The Big Short (2015)
Directed by Adam McKay
Genre: Biography, Drama
Time: 2h 10min
This is only the second movie I’ve ever reviewed on my blog. But as soon as I finished watching it, I knew I had to. I have to talk about this. Here’s what this movie, this true story made into film, is about:
THIS IS A TRUE STORY.
The men who made millions from a global economic meltdown.
I know that to many (well, most) people, this sounds like an incredibly boring topic. In my opinion, that truly depends on the medium. This movie was brilliant. I love the way this was told. Basically, the story is told to you by Jared Vennett, played by Ryan Gosling. He provides commentary throughout the film. At times, he even appears in a scene, turns to look at you and says: “I wasn’t actually here. I would never talk to people like this. But this is what happened”. And I loved it. It sometimes undercuts this serious topic with humor, which is great. Otherwise this movie would’ve become too heavy.
Before I start on the actual story, I want to say that I have the utmost respect for the makers of this movie. The editing must have been insane. At times, when Jared (Gosling) is explaining a concept or event to you, scenes flash across the screen. It’s gorgeous. It wasn’t too much so it didn’t bother me, but it was intriguing.
If you’re afraid you won’t understand many of the terms used when talking about the crisis or financial investments, don’t worry. The movie is really honest. At one point it states that Wall Street uses these fancy terms to make you feel stupid, like they are all-knowing and obviously know best. The movie makes use of celebrities and other people to explain certain terms or jargon. For example: “here’s Selena Gomez at a blackjack table to explain to you what a synthetic CDO is”. I get that for some people, this could feel condescending. I didn’t take it as such though.
So this is the story of the few people who saw the warning signs of the mortgage investments and packages. The few people who saw that the banks were packaging really bad mortgages with loans people could never pay off as securities, selling them at such high rates. The banks didn’t care, because they were making money. At first, they grouped together only the best rated mortgages. Those securities were of little risk, because people were very likely to pay them off. So you could make money with very little risk. Sounds good, right? Of course. Until they started running out of highly rated mortgages. So they started throwing in a lot riskier ones -and telling no one. There are like thousands of mortgages in one of those securities/bonds, so no one is checking them. Everyone just trusts their banker to be honest. It came to a point where anyone could get a mortgage on a house, even when they didn’t have a job or income. These people would never be able to pay them off! But the banks were still making immense amounts of money off of it, so why care? That’s the start of it all.
I loved this movie. Partly because it affected my faith in humanity immensely. Now, as a student of my university’s Economy and Business faculty, I’ve been taught many aspects of the start of the crisis. I don’t think there is a single person in my year who hasn’t heard of The Lehman Brothers, or their part in the economic meltdown. Yet this movie still confronted me with the facts. I already knew quite a bit of them, yet I’d never felt as angry or disgusted by them. Knowing the facts, and seeing them play out in front of you are two entirely different things.
This entire crash of the economy makes me SO MAD. Why? Because once again, humanity has shown itself from its worst side. The greed and arrogance of a few (relatively few I mean) nearly brought down the entire world. We’re all still recovering from it. And whether you think this is a boring topic, or you know nothing about finance, that doesn’t matter. It will still affect you.
In my opinion, it is necessary to educate yourself on this topic. Last time, no one really knew anything about investing, finance or banking. So we put all our trust in the bank or in investors and hedge funds. And look where that got us. The only way we can learn from it and prevent it from happening again is to educate ourselves.
What disgusted me the most, is the ending of this movie. And the brutal honesty of it. This movie made me feel so sick, not because it was bad, but because it was actually being honest. It was shoving our faces into the truth and screaming: LOOK! The ending of this movie is insane because it’s the truth: how we dealt with the crisis was awful. We didn’t punish the banks or the bankers. We didn’t govern them. We didn’t send those responsible to jail. No, we let the average people take the fall. We let them lose their jobs and their homes. It’s disgusting.
I realize that this makes me sound like a capitalism-hater. I am definitely not. I am all for capitalism. And international trade. And a free market (obviously regulated at some points). I truly am. I’m an economy student after all.
Even if you don’t care about economy, or don’t know anything about it: please give this movie a try. It’s really well written, and the performances were great. It combined honesty with humor in the best possible way. It’s not a boring movie at all. I found it to be brilliant.