Perhaps you’ve seen that recently released other movie a few times already, and you’re looking for something else at the cinema. The Big Short would like a moment of your time. Unlike The Force Awakens, which has turned the nation into rabid spoiler-phobes, so sensitive that even the most basic plot summaries are considered off-limits, The Big Short is a movie that we all know by heart. We lived through it, very recently. We know about the housing market crash of September 2008, and how it had to do with subprime mortgages and other such things. And when we discuss it, we pretend we know what the hell we’re talking about.
Well, pretend no longer. Enter Ryan Gosling to explain it to us, among others. Yes, this is a movie where characters frequently talk directly to the camera to explain difficult concepts like synthetic CDO loans, just to make sure we’re on the same page. Margot Robbie in a bubble bath tells us all about what “subprime” really means. This is brilliant storytelling, because not only do we need the help, but it eliminates the requirement for the story to have a “newbie” character getting everything explained to them in an awkward way. No sir, all the characters here are very smart. That’s what the movie is about. A few cherished men who figured out what was going on and that the housing market bubble would burst, and they took action. To … try to stop it from happening? Nope. To profit from it. What they did was “short” the mortgage bonds failing, i.e. bet in the stock market that it would happen. Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carrell among others play various real life men who profited from the fraud of the banking industry and the US government and they are the heroes of this movie.
Yet despite all this, the movie is absolutely riveting. We get real drama in some of these characters’ backstories, that are unrelated to the larger banking plot. The performances are uniformly great, filled with excellent cameos and bit parts, the slapdash style of directing fits the tone perfectly and the complicated ideas and concepts are fully explained in a fun and entertaining way. We think we know how it all went down, but we don’t really. We don’t know the half of it. And after watching this, I think I’ve learned approximately the half of it. And that is enough to enrage.