“THE first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”: Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2 act 4, scene 2. Right now, I’m feeling much the same way about all the investment bankers.
The reason I’m feeling that way is because The Current Mrs Feeney and I went to the cinema this afternoon to see The Big Short – director Adam McKay’s movie based on Michael Lewis’s best-selling non-fiction book The Big Short: Inside The Doomsday Machine.
It’s a fine and angry film about four men who foresaw the collapse of the American housing market in the late 2000s, which led to a global economic meltdown. While the bankers are the undoubted villains, the four who saw what was coming aren’t heroes; they speculated on the collapse and made billions of dollars when they were proven right. Meanwhile, millions of people lost their jobs and their homes.
And the bankers who presided over this outrage? Oh, they were bailed out by their respective governments (using taxpayers’- i.e. OUR – money) and went right on making obscene fortunes using largely the same scandalous tactics that created the disaster in the first place.
It’s not even as if they can be accused simply of monumental stupidity. That would be letting them off lightly. The film’s closing moments make it clear that the truth was much, much worse.
The film uses innovative and imaginative ways to lead those of us who are not insiders through the murky maze where bankers made fortunes bundling and selling millions of high-risk mortgages, while the politicians and financial regulators were asleep at the wheel (or worse).
Occasionally one of the actors will turn to the camera and speak directly to the audience to further explain exactly what has – or is about – to happen. If that sounds disjointed and disruptive, trust me when I say that it really isn’t.
Brad Pitt, Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling are uniformly excellent as three parts of the four financial horsemen of the apocalypse. As for Christian Bale, playing the man who first spotted what was going to happen; give him the Best Supporting Actor Oscar now. He is riveting.
Go and see this film. But be prepared to be very angry.
Retired Bloke Rating: VERY GOOD: ****