What would you call an investment bank when it decides to go all bearish instead of going bullish? I would rather call it their survival tactic especially during the beginning of the Global Financial Crisis in 2008. J. C. Chandor brought the same flavor in 2011 with his film, Margin Call. In 2015, Adam Mckay had an entirely different approach and he decided to show what actually happened before the 2007-10 financial meltdown. Michael Lewis had already written about it in his critically acclaimed non-fiction novel, The Big Short. And so Mr. Mckay chose to adopt the same.
The financial meltdown of 2007-10 was primarily caused by the outburst of the housing bubble created in the U.S. Complicated financial products were created based on the real-estate boom. Sub-prime loans flourished out of competition. And as mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and collateralized debt obligations (CDO) were not enough, a new innovation came into light and was called as synthetic collateralized debt obligations (Synthetic CDO). Furthermore, a CDO bubble was perpetuated by the Credit Rating Agencies as they chose to gave those CDOs the best rating for the long term investments, AAA. One would definitely want to question their flawed logic here. But in the U.S. these petty things usually get overlooked.
In 2005, Dr. Michael Burry (played by Christian Bale) of Scion Capital (dealing in hedge funds) discovered that the housing bubble is about to collapse in the second quarter of 2007. He chose to create a Credit Default Swap with a major investment bank. Jared Vennet (character based on Greg Lippmann and played by Ryan Gosling) and Mark Baum (character based on Steve Eisman and played by Steve Carell) also chose to invest in the same Credit Default Swap. Two new entrants in the Wall Street later joined the same league to short those CDOs under the guidance of Ben Rickert (character based on Ben Hockett and played by Brad Pitt). And of course, these key players got their over-the-top profits at the end while the entire nation went into the depression. This was the second worst financial crisis after the Great Depression of 1930s.
In 2014, Ramin Bahrani also tried to show us the other side of the story in 99 Homes. The story of what happens to the other side of the Sub-prime loans. Andrew Garfield was brilliant in his performance as he was in Boy A. But the actual repurcussions of the bubble outburst was indeed necessary for the world to see. In 2011, an inquiry commission submitted their findings and only a handful of people were convicted. And so Adam Mckay’s take on the situation justifies the purpose. The entire portrayal was comprehensive and cohesive enough to break-down the biggest financial meltdown on screen.