Please, do yourself a favour – go and see this movie. It manages to juggle the balls labelled entertainment, information and moral outrage brilliantly. I left the cinema much better informed about the sub-prime debacle and the resulting GFC; exhilarated by the wit and clever film making; and seething with anger at the greed of the bankers and financial institutions, who made it all happen with the complicity of those in power.
The film runs for just over two hours, and never draws breath once – and nor will you as you are swept along by both the story and the storytelling. Three separate strands are woven together to form the whole. Firstly we are introduced to Dr Michael Burry (played by Christian Bale), a socially inept but brilliant mathematician who is a genius at reading the financial numbers and runs a small private hedge fund. It is Burry who first discovers that the supposedly rock solid mortgage based security bonds are in fact a house of cards (or a jenga game, as Ryan Gosling’s character so graphically illustrates). The second story stream is started by Jared Vennett (played by Ryan Gosling, who is far from his gorgeous looking self), who is alerted to the money to be made by Michael Burry’s activity. Vennett is on the inside, but that doesn’t stop him putting together a package that will ultimately cost his bank a fortune but make him a multimillionaire. Vennett sells the package to Mark Baum (played by Steve Carell) and his team, all of whom hate the banks and are thrilled at the opportunity to make money from their greed & stupidity. Finally, we have two young hotshot finance guys who stumble onto and into the opportunity, and are helped to enter the fray via their mentor (played by Brad Pitt).
The story sweeps along at a rapid pace, and there are some incredibly witty lines which had me laughing out loud. It even managed to almost make me understand how it all happened through the use of talking to the camera cameos from the likes of Margot Robbie, Anthony Bourdain and Selena Gomez. The acting is universally excellent. You find yourself rooting for the jenga blocks to fall so they are all proved right but at the same time being appalled at the greed, avarice and downright fraud that made it all happen. And hurting for those who were on the receiving end of it all – the common man and women. Not to mention horrified that it is all happening again.
Four and a half stars.