The movie depicts three different but parallel stories of the U.S mortgage housing crisis that occurred in the year 2005. Michael Burry, a hedge fund manager believes that the housing market is built on a bubble and will burst within a few years. Consequently, he agrees to bet against the market with the banks which they accept happily as they believe that Burry is a crackjack and they will win for sure. But what if it happened otherwise?
Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling) states to the viewers that the world of banking is extremely boring. Things changed when Lewis Ranieri (Rudy Eisenzopf) created a plan for mortgage-backed securities to ensure bigger profits with lower risks since everyone was paying their mortgages. This was big for bankers, up until the year 2008 when the global financial crisis hit. Vennett adds that a small group of individuals saw this coming.
The next scene shows hedge fund millionaire Michael Burry (Christian Bale) in his office conducting an interview with a young analyst. Burry says his wife told him he needs to “share more”. He discusses having a glass eye since childhood due to losing his real eye to an illness. We see him as a child playing in a football game and being ashamed when the eye falls out. Burry continues rambling on about how the tech bubble burst in 2001, yet the housing market went up. He hires the analyst on the spot and instructs him to get him a list of the top 20 selling mortgage bonds.
The scene shifts to a counseling session where Mark Baum (Steve Carell) enters and takes over the session by complaining to everyone about an encounter he just had with a retail banker regarding his bank’s overdraft policies and how he is screwing over working people. Baum despises people working in big banks, especially after his brother committed suicide after getting screwed over. He later calls his wife Cynthia (Marisa Tomei) to express his anger, which she is used to hearing about, but still thinks he should quit his job. Baum then takes a cab from another man.
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