The Big Short: calculated bet or casino gambling?

Hollywood seems to love the financial collapse of 2008 and Princeton alum Michael Lewis. In the last five years, we’ve watched Margin Call, Too Big to Fail, and Inside Job explain the complicated financial meltdown to the average moviegoer. In the last five years, we’ve also watched screenplays adapted from Michael Lewis’ books, including Moneyball and The Blind Side. The Big Short, a movie about the housing bubble collapse adapted from Michael Lewis’ book of the same name, combines both of the industry’s love affairs.

As the trailer reveals, the movie is about a band of amoral renegades who foresaw the impending housing meltdown and subsequent financial collapse. Acting on this knowledge, they decide to bet against the Big Banks responsible, and as the trailer aptly puts it “the American economy” itself. The film offers a critique on capitalism, but by glorifying the men who placed these ballsy bets, it is unclear if the film is itself part of the same system that it is criticizing.

The jokes spliced together also show that unlike its predecessors, The Big Short, uses humor to grapple with the complicated issues of the financial collapse. The verdict is still out if the public is ready for this approach, after all, thousands of peoples lost their homes, 401Ks, and jobs during that watershed moment. Despite this innovative approach, the film has all of the hackneyed elements of a Hollywood movie on the world of high finance: strippers, raining money, and gambling.

I found the trailer’s background music energizing. The rhythmic and irritating tick-tock in the beginning eventually crescendos into Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks,” whose lyrics, “if it keeps on rainin’, leevee’s goin to break,” is apt for the plot. Beyond this, the trailer features an impressive cast, packing together Steve Carrel, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, and Christian Bale. Like the banks that precipitated the crisis, this cast is almost too big to fail.

Opens nationwide December 23, 2015.