A Review of “The Big Short”, The Movie

[The following review is by Jim Quinn of The Burning Platform. I came across it after writing an article about American greed. I thought it makes an excellent companion piece to that article because the themes depicted in the movie and described here are the themes I was writing about.]


The Big Short opens nationwide today. But it happened to have one showing last night at a theater near me. My youngest son and I hopped in the car and went to see it. I loved [amazon_link id=”0393072231″ target=”_blank” ]the book[/amazon_link] by Michael Lewis. The cast assembled for the movie was top notch, but having the director of Anchorman and Talledaga Nights handle a subject matter like high finance seemed odd.

The choice of Adam McKay as director turned out to be brilliant. The question was how do you make a movie about the housing market, mortgage backed securities, collateralized debt obligations, collateralized debt swaps, and synthetic CDOs interesting for the average person. He succeeded beyond all expectations.

Interweaving pop culture icons, music, symbols of materialism, and unforgettable characters, McKay has created a masterpiece about the greed, stupidity, hubris, and arrogance of Wall Street bankers gone wild. He captures the idiocy and complete capture of the rating agencies (S&P, Moodys). He reveals the ineptitude and dysfunction of the SEC, where the goal of these regulators was to get a high paying job with banks they were supposed to regulate. He skewers the faux financial journalists at the Wall Street Journal who didn’t want to rock the boat with the truth about the greatest fraud ever committed.

What makes the movie great are the characters, their motivations, their frustrations, their anger at a warped demented system, and ultimately their hollow victory when the entire edifice of fraud came crashing down on the heads of honest hard working Americans. The movie does not glorify the men that ended up making billions from the demise of the housing bubble. But it clearly defines the real bad guys.

Steve Carell plays Mark Baum (based on the real life character Steve Eisman). He’s the kind of prick who would fit in perfectly on TBP. He is abrasively hysterical with his foul mouthed commentary and insults to authority. He is the heart and soul of the movie. You feel his pain throughout. Carrell should win an Academy Award for his performance.

Christian Bale’s quirky performance as one eyed Dr. Michael Burry, whose Asberger’s Syndrome actually allowed him to focus on the minutia and discover the fraud before everyone else, is top notch. Ryan Goseling is hysterical in his role as the narrator of the story. Brad Pitt plays a supporting role, but does it with his usual class.

Ultimately, it is a highly entertaining movie with the right moral overtone, despite non-stop profanity that captures the true nature of Wall Street traders. This is a dangerous movie for Wall Street, the government, and the establishment in general. They count on the complexity of Wall Street to confuse the average person and make their eyes glaze over. That makes it easier for them to keep committing fraud and harvesting the nation’s wealth.

This movie cuts through the crap and reveals those in power to be corrupt, greedy weasels who aren’t really as smart as they want you to think they are. The finale of the movie is sobering and infuriating. After unequivocally proving that Wall Street bankers, aided and abetted by the Federal Reserve, Congress, the SEC, and the mainstream media, destroyed the global financial system, put tens of millions out of work, got six million people tossed from their homes, and created the worst crisis since the Great Depression, the filmmakers are left to provide the depressing conclusion.

No bankers went to jail. The Too Big To Fail banks were not broken up – they were bailed out by the American taxpayers. They actually got bigger. Their profits have reached new heights, while the average family has seen their income fall. Wall Street is paying out record bonuses, while 46 million people are on food stamps. Wall Street and their lackeys at the Federal Reserve call the shots in this country. They don’t give care about you. And they’re doing it again.

Every American should see this movie and get pissed off. The theater was deathly silent at the end of the movie. The audience was stunned by the fact that the criminals on Wall Street got away with the crime of the century, and they’re still on the loose. I had a great discussion with my 16 year old son on the way home. At least there is one millennial who understands how bad his generation is getting screwed.


Movie Trailer for The Big Short


Buy the movie or the book, The Big Short:

[amazon_enhanced asin=”B00CF6FDE0″ /][amazon_enhanced asin=”B0177ZM3LO” /][amazon_enhanced asin=”B019969US8″ /]


  1. Ping from Michael Ehrlich:

    Dear Dave,

    Thanks for the great review. I went and saw it and I loved the movie too. I wanted to share some youtube video’s I made in 2008 that explained how the mortgage market got so crazy. Please let me know what you think.

    Michael Ehrlich

  2. Ping from Delving Eye:

    Hi, Dave.

    Best takeaway comes at the end of this movie, when it describes dogshit CDOs that are being marketed in 2015 by Goldman (and other banks) under the elegant moniker: “bespoke opportunity tranches.”


    btw, according to Zillow, the value of my Fairfield County, CT, 5-bedroom/3-bath house was $640K this past July. Today, it’s $509K. That’s over a 20% drop in 6 months. Happy New Year!

    • Ping from Knave_Dave:

      That’s quite a drop if it’s real. I’ve noticed, however, that Zillow tends to understate values over here. I wonder how it is for consistency. If it always understates by the same percentage from what the real value is, then that would be a major plunge.

      Finally watched the movie tonight. It was quite good at showing how complicated the whole issue was, how corrupt, and how even those who saw it coming found that betting against the housing market was a perilous bet that wondered at several points if they were going to lose big on.

      • Ping from Delving Eye:

        Zillow can be off, it’s true.

        However, the foreclosures tell a more accurate tale. From a high of 39 foreclosures in our town of 5,000 households in 2009, there was an up-and-down descent over the past six years to a low of 11 this past July — and a jolly report from realtors that “the housing market is back!”.

        Today, there are 32 properties in foreclosure/pre-foreclosure — and the proverbial s**t coming in 2016/17 hasn’t yet hit the fan. Obviously, lots of people are in trouble and began feeling that trouble at least a few months ago. More to follow, sadly.

        • Ping from Knave_Dave:

          Ooo, that’s not good. I know housing in the Northwest has returned to its pre-recession peak, too, in terms of housing prices. At least in some areas. I didn’t expect the US economy to crash first in housing this time, though. Am expecting to see it develop in stocks and bonds as appears may now be happening with housing to follow after that. I wonder if what is happening in your area is the start of something broader that is happening (first cracks starting to show) or is a local phenomenon due to some local employment issues.

          I know that broader employment issues hit here for the first time last month as a nationwide corporation cut way back and permanently closed its local plant due to Chinese competition — one of the area’s larger longstanding employers and one of the few remaining with good pay and good benefits. That’s the first layoff locally due to the global economic downturn.

          So far, nothing showing in the housing market that I’ve noticed, which was where I first saw things happening in 2007 and was able to figure out from there that a mortgage catastrophe was about to explode throughout the economy. I remember having a conversation with a realtor back then that was exactly like the one in the film.


          • Ping from Delving Eye:

            We are an hour outside NYC, 30 minutes from Stamford, CT, and 45 minutes from Greenwich ($$$) CT. Our town is consistently rated the #1 Town in CT. So, it’s very nice, and a lot of people commute to the city for work. Still, house prices, which tried to climb since 2009, are offering lots of bargains in the last year or two, with owners of $700K-800K houses dropping their prices considerably — like by $100-150K — in order to realize a sale.

            And now with mortgage rates on the rise, those prices will have to drop further. Ouch.

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