Director Adam McKay draws inspiration from Michael Lewis' non-fiction account of the housing and credit bubble to dramatise the incredible true story of the men who made a killing by wagering against the US economy.
While the whole world was having a big ol' party, a few outsiders and weirdos saw what no one else could," explains sharp-suited narrator, Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), a bond salesman at Deutsche Bank with a keen nose for profits.
He is our wise-cracking guide to this high-pressure world of bulls, bears and multi-million dollar trades.
However, Jared is not the first person to spot impending doom. That honour goes to quixotic hedge fund manager Michael Burry (Christian Bale).
"It's a time bomb... and I want to short it," Burry informs his incredulous boss (Tracy Letts) and bets against the housing market.
Jared gets wind of the deal and follows suit, drawing in deeply cynical hedge fund manager Mark Baum (Steve Carell) and his team: Danny Moses (Rafe Spall), Porter Collins (Hamish Linklater) and Vinnie Daniel (Jeremy Strong).
Inexperienced investors Charlie Geller (John Magaro) and Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) use personal ties to retired banker Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt) to orchestrate their own high-risk bets as financial authorities ignore warning signs and Lehman Brothers prepares to fall.
The Big Short is a blisteringly funny and provocative portrait of irresponsibility, fraud and gaudy excess, brought vividly to life by a superb ensemble cast.