Socialist Worker

The Big Short puts the spotlight on Wall Street

by Nick Grant
Issue No. 2489

Bankers bet against the market in The Big Short

Bankers bet against the market in The Big Short

A film about the global financial crisis has five Oscar nominations.

The Big Short, based on journalist Michael Lewis’ work, is an entrancing depiction of the lives of capitalist traders in the years before Lehman Brothers’ collapse in 2008.

The outcome of this story is already common knowledge. What makes the film fascinating is how this group of insiders decided to bet against the delusional presumptions of the stock market.

Director Adam McKay’s reputation is in comedies—and he uses ruses drawn from them to explain key jargon.

Informative sequences by US celebrities directly address the audience.

Christian Bale is physically impressive as autistic maths-obsessed hedge fund manager Michael Burry.

Steve Carell is likeable as the brash subversive Mark Baum, leading a separate hedge fund operation.

Ryan Gosling hams it up as trader Jared Vennett. Brad Pitt features in the minor role of the morally compromised retired hedge funder Ben Rickert.

The film’s often wobbly, unfocussed camera work and scattershot edits give it a documentary feel.

Contemporary music snippets help locate the particular years the narrative covers.

Obviously there’s a huge contradiction in Hollywood celebrating this film’s exposure of irrational capitalist realities.

And of course, the whistleblowers in the film make a killing for themselves to retire very comfortably.

But the film ends with an absolutely pertinent comment on Donald Trump’s scary vision.

This movie will exhilarate and exasperate readers in equal measure.

The Big Short
Directed by Adam McKay
On general release

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Article information

Tue 2 Feb 2016, 16:30 GMT
Issue No. 2489
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