True story of how a motley collection of mathematical nerds, talented amateurs and assorted finance industry eccentrics foresaw the collapse of the subprime mortgage bubble economy and tried to make a killing by ‘shorting’ or betting against it.
These were the smart guys, but even they weren’t prepared for the moral cesspit of lies, corruption and fraud they found at its core.
It’s a complicated story, and the producers try their damnedest to explain it in an entertaining way. A random blonde sipping champagne in a flash penthouse bath (yes, yes, I know she’s some celebrity but I missed it because they talk so fast) explains what ‘sub-prime’ means, then tells us to ‘fuck off’. One of the main players also delivers the voice-over to explain concepts like ‘collateralised debt obligations’, and he breaks the third wall from time to time by turning to the camera to say things like ‘yes, it really did happen like that’.
But even apart from the financial jargon, the language of these cyberspace-dwelling screen jockeys is so abstract, so steeped in arcane metaphor and so whip-fast it really is hard for a provincial suburbanite like yours truly to follow, and I have to admit I dozed off a couple of times, but I tend to do that anyway if I go to the movies in the arvo.
There are laughs to be had here too and I did chuckle a few times, but not as often as the bloke up the back whom I suspect was in the biz because he seemed to understand all the jokes and references.
It’s a quintessentially modern story of human folly, greed and corruption on a massive scale. Brad Pitt and his co-producers deserve credit for the moral clear-sightedness with which they tell it. I certainly ended up sharing their incredulous outrage that the bad guys basically got away with it. The GFC, I mean, not the Big Short, which was fair play in the end.
This was first published to Facebook on 2.2.16