ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Taking A Big Risk In The Big Short

Updated on December 26, 2015

The Big Short takes a look at the 2008 crisis in the US housing market, and the small group of investors who bet on it to fail. An intensely private and eccentric physician named Michael Burry (Christian Bale) used an inheritance in the early 2000s to found Scion Capital LLC in California, as he was also quite knowledgable about investments. Several years before events occurred, Burry thought the housing market was destined for collapse due to its inclusion of subprime loans. He was so convinced the collapse was going to happen, Burry approached several of the big banks to arrange the purchase of credit default swaps, for which Burry would have to pay premiums as long as housing market remained profitable. He had enough money to wait for a bursting bubble, and the banks who dealt with him happily took his money. These actions made some Scion investors very nervous.

Others in the financial sector see what Dr. Burry has done, and they investigate for themselves. Among those who concur is Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), a very opinionated Connecticut money manager who puts his own money into swaps. By accident, he places a call to New York trader Mark Baum (Steve Carell) and his team, who want to learn how the swaps work. They meet as Vennett explains what Burry took the time to read: the housing market investments are filled with worthless loans, propped up by raters who give the loans high ratings. Baum meets with a man who explains how the bundling works in a way that Baum sees as fraudulent. Business partners Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock), who own a small hedge fund company, want to get in on the swaps because they read about Vennett, but don't have the experience to make that deal, so they enlist the help of retired banker Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), who helps them get swaps as well. Things don't go exactly as planned, though, as the housing market initially withstands the wave of failures that come when the variable rates on the mortgages start to rise, causing many to lose their homes.

The Big Short is based on the non-fiction book by Michael Lewis, but the movie uses the real name of just Burry. The movie is a riveting, and sometimes darkly comic, look at the events that threaten to potentially derail the world's economy. Director and co-scenarist Adam McKay, who's known for goofy comedies such as the Anchorman movies (which feature Carell) takes viewers to the roots of the housing crisis in the late 1970s, when one investor showed others how to beome rich by putting high risk into safe bets, such as housing, and maximize profits. The atmosphere of the world against which these men bet is arrogant and dismissive, and so much so that they see credit swaps as a way to make themselves even richer. McKay uses several devices to explain the trader terminology, most of which are effective. The part of The Big Short that didn't work well were the character asides, which seem more vain than explanatory. I do admire that McKay questions where the real losers can be found, since, in a certain way, most of the people affected by the burst of the housing bubble are not seen on the screen.

In McKay's ensemble, Bale and Carell fare the best. Both are broken men, yet still able to see the big problem and the big picture most refuse to see. Burry would just as soon be left alone, even though he is a married father whose wife and child viewers never see except in photos. Michael almost never dresses in business attire, and relieves stress by drumming. His plan serves as a source of stress not only for himself, but also for his Scion boss, Lawrence Fields (Tracy Letts), who thinks Burry's scheme is crazy. Carell lives unhappiness as Baum, who hates what he sees among many in his field, yet he fights for the honesty that he feels should exist in their career work. At home, he has a devoted wife in Cynthia (Marisa Tomei), who sees the hurt in Mark, who carries on quietly, in spite of dealing with a huge personal loss he discusses with nobody. I also like Gosling as the ever-confident Verrett and Pitt as the reluctantly helpful Rickert. Also good in smaller roles are Melissa Leo as ratings broker Georgia Hale and Jeremy Strong as Baum's tough-talking associate Vinnie Daniel. Celebrites who make cameos as themselves include Margot Robbie, Anthony Bourdain, and Selena Gomez.

The Big Short is a largely effective film about a group of people who saw what others refused to see, and took action. Many of the secondary characters seem to have embodied the spirit of Louis Rainieri, who sold his concept, and had others embrace it and build on it as though no end were ever in sight. The Big Short is a sad but very accurate tale of modern times, where some have used their business skill to rob people of things for which they can never be reimbursed. It's hard to say that in that sort of atmosphere that anybody emerges unscathed.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give The Big Short 3.5 stars. It's not if the bubble bursts, but when.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile imageAUTHOR

      Pat Mills 

      3 years ago from East Chicago, Indiana

      Thanks Mel. I hope you will go ahead and rent this, which will probably happen sometime in spring. I'm sure that few investors fiddle while Rome burns, they are, unfortunately, the ones that matter the most. There always will be ones who scheme. While the movie, Bale, and Carell have all received Golden Globe nominations, the people who decide the Oscar nominations will have their final selections announced on January 14.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      3 years ago from San Diego California

      I don't like Bale, and I don't care much for Pitt, but the concept behind the movie seems fascinating, and the whole fiddling while Rome burns idea embodied by these investors is a terrible but intriguing look into the dark side of human nature. I'll probably try to catch this when it comes to DVD. I think it has been nominated for an Oscar, if I'm not mistaken. Great review!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)