Analysis of The Characters in The Movie The Big Short

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Words: 1124 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: May 14, 2021

Words: 1124|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: May 14, 2021

The Big Short is a movie based on a non-fiction book “The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine” by Michael Lewis in 2010. The film tells the story that led up to the 2007-2008 financial crisis and the housing bubbles. The movie may be too dry for people without a finance background. Still, the director excellently added some pop-culture explanations of finance and humor between characters in the film to grab the viewer's attention. It helps the world to understand the economic collapse on Wall Street in New York, to the meltdown of the financial market, and its impact globally. Not only that, but the movie also focuses on some investors who foresee in advance the mortgage securities market will meltdown and crash. Within the film, there are three different stories, which all linked together because of the housing bubble. These characters knew that the market crash was imminent, decided to use this knowledge to profit themselves, and short bet against the “always stable' mortgage market. This paper will look at some of these individuals and how they contributed to the worst financial meltdown in history.

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From the very beginning of the movie, the first character that discovered the potential crash of the financial market is Michael Burry, played by Christian Bale. In the film, he is a hedge fund managing director with socially inept. Since early on, even though no one trusted him, he recognized and believed that the housing market was unstable. The main reason for this is because they based on high-risk subprime loans, which provide fewer and fewer returns. No one selling them seems to understand that concept cause they too busy making money and believed that the market is uncrashable. Thus, he created a credit default swap (CDS), which is a short-selling investment strategy, and allowed him to bet against the United States mortgage market for profit. He threw more than 1 billion dollars into CDS, which catches the attention of other stockbrokers, as well as confusion and fear in his investors. As time goes by, while waiting for the market to collapse, he loses a lot of money, and his investors become impatient. Later, investors turned their backs with threats and lawsuits against him. Michael Burry's prediction about the market was correct, but his timing is off. He predicted it so ahead of times that he had to hold on and potentially stuck with a significant loss. Eventually, he was able to hold on long enough to make the trades and cleared his name, but it left a deep scar in him.

Another character that affected and played a significant role in the financial crisis is Mark Baum, portrayed by Steve Carell. He is a fund manager who recently undergoes a family tragedy. He hears about the potential crisis, but not entirely sure about the scale of it. Unlike Michael Burry, Mark Baum does not dive into spreadsheets to find his answer; he is more about the real world. His team took the street and witnessed the housing bubble with their eyes. They saw an alarming problem with many late payments, foreclosure of uninformative people. They all expect the housing price to continue to rise. Only after the conversation with the bankers, who unconcernedly reveals all the potential risks, Mark Baum finally concludes that the risk is much larger than he ever imagined. It just matters of time before the bubble bursts, and everything starts to go downhill from there. He gives an order to his team to short everything by saying, “Short everything that guy has touched'. Besides, he also spoke with a hopeless sigh, “I'm going to try to find moral redemption'. It is clear at that point, he knew, afraid of what the industry could do to thousands of people's lives and how he contributed to bring that crash closer. His character was not doing it for the money. In fact, he was disgusted by the industry and hoped to bring justice for the average American, who suffers the most if the crash happens. Both Burry and Baum want to win, but what they want to succeed is more than just money; they want to make it right.

The last characters are Jamie Shipley by Finn Wittrock, and Charlie Geller by John Magaro. They are two young traders, who discovered the potential housing bubble, so they convinced Ben Rickert to help them access the financial market. Ben Rickert, played by Brad Pitt, is a retired banker. Due to past conflict and disillusion, he left the industry and lived in a rural area. He mentored Shipley and Wittrock throughout the movie and led them to bet against the housing market successfully. Shortly after, Rickert got angry that they were continually profiting off the downfall of the United States market. He went on and said, “If we're right, people lose homes. People lose jobs. People lose retirement savings, people lose pensions. You know what I hate about fucking banking? It reduces people to numbers. Here's a number - every 1% unemployment goes up, 40,000 people die, did you know that?”. It is the wake-up call from Ben Rickert. He reminded all the characters what they are doing at that moment, is rooting for the collapse of not only the United States but the world's economy. Even if they are right, and win this bet, they are not actually winning.

All these characters are from entirely different places, but all of them spotted the problem in mortgage securities, especially those resting on the inflation of high-risk subprime loans. During the movie, whenever a character discovers the potential crisis, they are all surprised and hope their guess was wrong. Also, when they proved what they think is right, instead of happy, they gutted. Most of the characters faced an ethical dilemma. They were betting against the United States market, but what potentially was going to fail is the banking system and the world economy. It was a game where one person's win is another person's loss. They could be the hero, who foresees and tries to right a wrong. At the same time, they felt conflicted between their selfishness to make a fortune out of the situation, and the horrible effect on millions of people.

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In conclusion, even though the Big Short movie has a serious, complicated subject and hard to follow, the director did an excellent job of portraying it with impressive attention to detail, and humor. Through the movie, it reminds people that dealing with an enormous sum of money isn't a morally neutral activity. The world is set up for situations to happen. When it happens, people will have to make tough decisions and be ready to face the consequences. Relationships will be destroyed, as people become greedy, envious, and fearful.

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Analysis Of The Characters In The Movie The Big Short. (2021, May 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from
“Analysis Of The Characters In The Movie The Big Short.” GradesFixer, 14 May 2021,
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Analysis Of The Characters In The Movie The Big Short [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 May 14 [cited 2024 May 18]. Available from:
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