Movie Review: The Big Short

By now, I think most of the U.S. has heard of Lehman (pronounced "Lee-man") Brothers, which went bankrupt in 2008. At the end of 2008, I was a senior in college - for the most part, surrounded by an Ann Arbor bubble - but I still heard about the bank's demise. The Big Short focuses on the housing crisis with mortgages, that was foreseeable starting in 2005/2006 but eventually imploded in 2008, and what some investors did to profit off of it.

Michael Burry, M.D. (Christian Bale) is a former medical student who now focuses on trends in the market. He has an investment firm, and decides to invest all of its capital into "shorts" (shorting the mortgage market) once he sees a disturbing downward trend - downward for the mortgage holders, that is, not investors. All of the major banks think he's crazy and are happy to take his money; later on, Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) as well as Mark Baum (Steve Carell) get in on this investment as well, even though at the time (2006/2007) they are actually having to PAY the banks/investment companies to keep their investment.

This movie had a huge A-list cast, including Bale, Gosling, and Carell, as mentioned above; Brad Pitt, as a former investor; Finn Wittrock, Marisa Tomei, Max Greenfield, Melissa Leo, Hamish Linklater, Billy Magnusson, and more, including John Magaro and Jeremy Strong, who showed up for a live Q&A at my screening location (Royal Oak, MI) after the film. This film reminded me a bit of Moneyball, in that it was interesting to me but a lot of it (the financial parts) went over my head - and there's a good reason for that, as the author of both books on which the two films were based on is the same author (Michael Lewis).

Maybe see this movie. It's rare that I give a film a 3.5 star rating (see below) and also a Maybe instead of a Yes, but if you aren't interested in numbers and/or the economy, you aren't going to find this film interesting. The movie mostly kept my attention, and it does try to explain a lot of the terms thrown around in it in laymen terms - at the same time, they do this in a kind of gimmicky way, though (no spoilers) - but I felt like a lot of it still went over my head. The standouts in this movie were definitely Carell, Gosling, and Bale, who all turn in excellent performances; but I feel no need to view this movie again on Blu-ray/DVD, as one screening of it was enough for me.

The Big Short is in theaters today, December 23rd, and is rated R with a runtime of 130 minutes. 3.5 stars out of 5.

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