In 2008 Michael Burry realises that a number of subprime home loans are likely to default, this means that the entire housing market will collapse. To the shock and delight of the banks Michael Burry bets against the housing market banking on it collapse, something that hardly ever happens. Little do they know that, in the near future, the market will collapse like never before. However, Burry's actions don't go unnoticed and there are others who also want a piece of the action.
There are two interesting companion pieces that could be watched alongside The Big Short, first 99 Homes (which I haven't seen but have heard good things about it) which, in contrast to The Big Short, looks at those hit most heavily by the financial crisis of 2008. The second film that's also worth a watch is Margin Call, a low key affair that looks at the crash of 2008 from the point of view of the banks.
In contrast to 99 Homes, The Big Short follows those who benefited from the Housing market crashing. This does not mean that the film celebrates these people's achievements at the expense of other's suffering, just because the film doesn't spoon feed you what is morally right doesn't mean that is celebrates any wrongdoings. In fact the film makes is perfectly clear that those benefiting from the crisis are no different to the banks themselves.
Still, that said, the film is pretty scathing of the banks' actions that lead to the bursting of housing bubble. Years and years of banks giving mortgages to people who could never pay it back is one of main morally dubious actions executed by the banks that the film takes aim at. The banks take such a battering that it is greatly satisfying that their smug faces at making a deal of a life time (where Bale's Michael Burry invests against the housing market, banking on it to collapse) could soon be wiped off.
The Big Short is closer to The Wolf of Wall Street (which also got some flak for glamorising immoral behaviour) than the low-key drama of Margin Call, of course without the excessive sex, nudity and drugs. However, like The Wolf of Wall Street, the film does on many occasions break the fourth wall which generates a lot of laughs when it could have gone either way. The film is shot as though it was a documentary and edited with great style also, for somewhat unique touch, the film uses celebrities (such as Selena Gomez and Margot Robbie) to explain the more complicated economic terms. This a tactic that works because any expositional dialogue where stock traders explain simple economic terms to other stock traders simply wouldn't work, like astronauts explaining to other astronauts how black holes work (I'm looking at you Interstellar).
Performance wise the film is excellent, particularly Steve Carrell who in recent years has shown his dramatic range in films such as Foxcatcher (where he was utterly unrecognisable). Here he is in more of his element (not that he was out of it in Foxcatcher) as his character has the majority of the film's best lines but he also bring a level of depth to his character as he struggles within in himself to shake off the feeling that profiting from the crash makes him no different to the bankers he loathes. Supporting him well is the slick Ryan Gosling and Christian Bale's Burry who predicted the crash before anyone else.