Every so often an exceptional film comes out of the Hollywood dream factory, which rises above the usual dross of dumb and crude teen movies, all-action revenge films with attendant car chases or rom/coms, most of which are too stereotypical of their genre.
The ‘Big Short’ does something different. Instead of the director becoming side-tracked with too much character development and lengthy back-stories it presents the insanity of capitalism as the centre of the drama; a compelling set of arguments that dramatically examines the essence of the 2007/8 world-wide financial crash. The characters are certainly interesting in the unfolding narrative, but it is the insanity of free-market economics that holds our attention.
Director Andy McKay has adapted Michael Lewis’s non-fiction book ‘The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine’. McKay has achieved the blackest of black comedies. Christian Bale gives a stunning performance as Michael Burry, who is obsessed with crunching numbers. He and Mark Baum, a hedge fund manager played by Steve Carell, become convinced of the imminent financial crash.
Burry realises that creating credit default swaps will allow him to ‘short’ the housing market. They understand numbers more than people. Their bosses and wider community of traders and assorted financial lowlifes are convinced of the infallibility of money markets. The crash proved that these very same people did not really understand what they were doing; they merely did as they were told, dealing in collaterized debt obligations (CDOs), without understanding the havoc this would cause.
The end of the film presents the audience with chilling information. It raises some interesting questions about capitalism, not least the fact that amidst crashes there will always be individuals who will make money. It is only we the audience who can provide the answers; if we don’t we are condemned to repeat the past.