Director Adam McKay, known for outrageous comedies, takes on Wall Street with this highly stylized version of the mortgage housing collapse of 2008. Dramatic in nature but still filled with plenty of laughs (some unintentional), the film hits a hard reality in a very entertaining way.
The film stars Christian Bale as Dr. Michael Burry (who first predicted the collapse), Steve Carrell as Mark Baum (who quickly became a believer), Ryan Gosling as Jared Vennett (who brings the information to Baum looking for investors) and Brad Pitt as Ben Rickert (a retired investor mentoring two young upstarts). Obviously everyone is portraying a real person and while it seems over the top, it's really on the money (pun intended). Mr. Carrell is just terrific as Mr. Baum. His tired resignation at the end (despite becoming very rich) is so human and honest, you almost forgive him for profiting from the disaster. Mr. Bale is also quite good as the very odd but brilliant Dr. Michael Burry. He actually seems to regret how much money he makes from the collapse.
Mr. McKay makes some interesting choices to help explain Wall Street terminology and financial maneuvering to the audience. Mr. Gosling narrates and frequently breaks the 4th wall speaking directly to the camera. An odd assortment of "celebrities" explain complicated terms in simple terms, again, directly to the audience. Definitions appear written on screen. You would think all the breaks in the narrative would be disruptive but you get used to it fairly quickly and it does help to break things down in layman's terms for a wide audience.
This is a cautionary tale that, unfortunately, will quickly fade into the history books and and life will go on...on Wall Street and little pink houses everywhere.