A freelance writer and traveller who likes to explore the spiritual, literary and hidden gems of Adelaide and beyond.
Published January 24th 2016
Fast Times in the World of Finance
On face value a film based on the world of finance does not sound like a winner, but The Big Short manages to entertain as well as inform. It is based on the New York Times bestseller of the same title. It follows a handful of finance managers who see the 2008 housing market and bank collapse coming when no one else does. To short the system is to bet against that system, terminology I learnt on the fly, as I indulged in this highly entertaining 'Finance for Dummies' caper movie.
The film exposes the fraudulent system of lending money to people who had very limited capacity to pay it back, which generated the sub prime mortgage crisis and the follow on global financial crisis. Banks and the rating agencies are all portrayed as complicit in a system that sounds very much like big time gambling.
The film is set up like a documentary, as it outlines the financial system. With actors talking directly to the camera at times, plus some quirky cameos to keep your attention. Think Margot Robbie in a bubble bath and Selena Gomez at a Black Jack table, among many others. However I am not sure I understand the financial system any better!
This is a largely all male cast. Christian Bale has received many award nominations, including an Academy Award nomination, for his role as the renegade hedge-fund manager Michael Burry. Burry is able to dissect the financial market while listening to ear shattering heavy metal music and wearing nonstandard issue shorts and t-shirts. He sets up insurance policies to pay out if the banks default on their loans and a collapse occurs. He come across as a loner who is highly intelligent with next to no social skills.
Steve Carrell plays Mark Baum an investment banker who also comes to the realisation that a banking crisis is on the horizon via the hard sell of another maverick played by Ryan Gosling. Gosling plays his slick salesman pitch well, but his look seems strangely incongruent. His hair is either badly dyed or he is wearing a bad wig. Mark Baum is also not a traditionally likeable whistleblower but a more driven and obnoxious New Yorker.
To round out the expose of the financial system two 'garage' financial players are also on to the impending crisis. The nerdy and naïve financial investors enlist the aid of an old colleague, Ben Rickert who was a major player in his day. Brad Pitt plays the jaded and reclusive Rickert. He is barely in the film and plays against type as a gruff and aloof retired finance guru. Nevertheless he assists the two rookies for reasons never entirely explained.
The viewer is taken along for this ride through the world of high finance. The energy level is always maintained even though the outcome is known. It is the classic us against them scenario; the little guy standing up to injustice. The film purposefully raises a lot of questions. These are not easy questions and the viewer is left to wonder if anything was learnt in the world of banking, loans and finance markets. Or will history repeat itself again, and again.