One of the most widely anticipated films of the holiday season was released to big audiences and wide acclaim. It tells the tale of an epic battle between the forces of light and darkness, filled with arrogant but lovable characters, some of whom, despite their obvious flaws and shortcomings, redeem themselves by taking on and winning against an evil empire.
I refer not to “Star Wars: The Force Wakens,” but to the film adaptation of Michael Lewis’ book, “The Big Short.” It chronicles how a motley crew of assorted traders and fund managers came to understand the impending housing implosion, and discovered a novel way to make a bet on it. It isn’t a spoiler alert to say that the financial world collapses, the protagonists get rich and no one lives happily ever after.
The reviews have been mostly excellent — Rotten Tomatoes has the critics’ ratings at 87 percent; they call it a “scathingly funny indictment of its real-life villains.” Among movie-goers, it ranked at 90 percent; I loved the Lewis’ book, and to the extent the movie deviated by veering into some absurdist comedy, I’d give it an 80 or so out of 100. Perhaps the film “Margin Call” is a better Wall Street drama; “Trading Places” is certainly a much funnier movie. Regardless, it’s good wonky fun all around.
As someone who has studied the financial crisis, and written a well-regarded (see this, this and this) book on the subject, I can say that the film gets the broad strokes of the crisis correct. A complex set of factors led to a unique bubble in mortgage credit, followed by a crash in valuations that almost took down the rest of the economy.
A small group of pundits have criticized the movie, claiming that the fundamental narrative is wrong . . .
Continues here: The ‘Big Short’ Gets It Right