Don’t ask me today what a collateralised debt obligation is but The Big Short gave me enough of a crash course during it to keep up. And if nothing else, kind reader, that is an achievement in itself.
The Big Short
FOR all the Inside Jobs or Margin Calls Hollywood serves us, we’re still not done revising the calamitous economic crash of 10 years ago. Indeed in this country films like The Guarantee told of the shifty corporate goings on that led to financial ruin for the ordinary man. Despite providing an autopsy of the machinations of the disaster, the dearth of human morals is still hard to swallow.
The Big Short is the latest and snazziest of the sub-genre, and sees Anchorman director Adam McKay line up a fine all-star cast to remove the fourth wall and unveil the seediness of US banking to Oscar-nominated effect. Michael Lewis’s 2010 book provides the real-life source material.
Narrating is Wall Street wolf Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) who happens upon a theory by brilliant hedge fund manager Michael Burry (Christian Bale); the US housing market is set to pop and purchasing “shorts” against the market will equal a huge payday when it does.
Vennett approaches hedge fund manager Michael Baum (Steve Carell) and convinces him to move on the potentially lucrative gamble. Meanwhile, two young up and comers also look to get in on the action with help from Brad Pitt’s beardy retired bankman.
If you’re sketchy on subprimes and CODs, cameo asides from Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez and Anthony Bourdain give dummies’ guides to the jargon. These and the snappy pace make for a lively, if slightly smug, crash course. McKay, however, balances the laughs with high-stakes drama and remorse.
First published in the Sunday Independent