I liked it much more than I expected to, and was pleased to have been invited to yesterday’s special screening. (By the way, there are no real spoilers in this review.) The most noteworthy features of this movie, from my admittedly skewed perspective, are these:
1. The story is told through the medium of changing market prices. Really. Reported prices convey the action and its significance, repeatedly, and the audience is expected to “get” this.
2. There is no central villain, none whatsoever. The filmmakers succeed in showing how the collective actions of many, operating together, can give rise to structural problems and systemic risk. And yet the story remains suspenseful.
3. It is amazing how much jargon they packed into this movie, let’s hope audiences accept it. They even try to explain what a collateralized debt obligation is, and why its true risk can be higher than its apparent risk.
4. In terms of flow and pacing, it doesn’t feel like a traditional Hollywood movie. There is no background music (except Led Zeppelin at the close), the density of information is much higher than expected, and it draws inspiration from various souped-up YouTube clips, some where characters occasionally turn and speak to the audience directly.
5. I enjoyed how this movie showed the world of finance as being a menagerie of different kinds and levels of intelligence. My favorite scenes were at the CDO conference held in Las Vegas, showing the very specific ways in which people of above-average intelligence nonetheless can be intensely stupid.
6. Yes, the movie was “too leftie” on various points, or occasionally not nuanced enough, such as the SEC regulator scene. But what the movie does well — namely to condense amazing amounts of economics and finance into what is likely to prove a popular and critically acclaimed film — is path breaking, and more important than its shortcomings.
By the way, the preview for this movie is misleading, for one thing Brad Pitt has only a minor role. The preview is technically well done, but it makes the film look too mainstream.
Addendum: A recent movie I enjoyed on Netflix was Tangerine, which also has a unique feel to it, shot solely on iPhones. But if you’re allergic to the idea of a movie about transgender prostitutes, skip it. It’s one of the great LA movies, though.