“When they say it’s not about money, it’s about money.”  — H.L. Mencken.

Get on board, fasten your seat belts and get ready for one of the best, most exciting rides of the cinematic year.

In director Adam McKay’s big box office thunder piece not yet widely opened and already being touted for Oscars and Golden Globes, we learn that everyone was a little bit of an angel, a little bit of the devil.

In 2008, as if you didn’t already know, the world economy almost hit the 1930s’ Great Depression basement. The whole financial world held its breath, the earth shook and it’s still shaking. Here are the players. Don’t trip on the debris.

It’s a good thing you’ve got that degree from the Wharton School of Business. You don’t? Oh, oh. Well, don’t worry. The cast will keep you awake. But take notes.

We get Brad Pitt (also a producer), all bearded and bespectacled, playing Ben Rickert, a retired, embittered hedge fund trader and off the grid health food organic farmer who’s too smart to get involved until he does.

There’s our narrator Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), a cool, polished and Machiavellian trader with Deutsche Bank who takes us through the crap storm of the 2008 bank collapse. Vennett claims the title as the darkest soul in the ranks. Count your fingers after shaking his hand.

We meet Mark Baum (Steve Carell in the best well-played role of his career), a broken-hearted Hebrew school grad whose brother just jumped from a rooftop.

Mark, a top line trader who pounds tables and shouts in restaurants, is barely holding it together. We’re glad he’s got his sweet suffering wife (Marisa Tomei) standing at the bottom of his emotional ladder with arms wide open.

These are only the East Coast players. There’s another bunch on the West Coast juggling the same numbers, all dancing on the edge of the same abyss.

Director Adam McKay (“Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights”) is our tour guide, and he does a dynamite job of balancing the essential balls.

Christian Bale, always one of my favorites and one of Hollywood’s best actors, has the most fun. He’s a one-eyed economic savant with a useless medical degree. It’s almost comic relief to see him with bare feet up on the desk, earphones glued on, banging on drums as he scans figures on his big screens. It’s his game, one he decides to play, that takes him into the bellies of the beasts: Morgan Stanley, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs. The endgame is not pretty.

Charles Randolph’s script, taken from Michael Lewis’ best selling novel, glosses our eyes with credit default swaps, synthetic collateralized debt obligations and subprime mortgages like they’re going to be on the final exam.

The almost all male cast is peppered with a field of great players and familiar television faces. Rudy Eisenzopf, Peter Epstein, Jeremy Strong and Hamish Linklater are some of the intense players in this giant, apocalyptic board game.

McKay cleverly uses television gourmet world traveler Anthony Bourdain to explain it all, as he uses day old fish to make a stew. It didn’t make me feel any smarter, but it was fun to watch.

Barry Ackroyd’s camera is everywhere in all the right places and at the right times. He’s a genius at staying invisible.

“The Big Short” is one of those movies that requires you to sit up straight, cup your ears, stay awake and pay attention. Fasten your seat belts. It’s a bumpy ride … and Merry Christmas.

J.P Devine is a former film and stage actor and author of “Will Write For Food.”

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