On September 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. This was the beginning of a horrific slide into the worst recession since the Great Depression. But the lessons learned since then were largely forgotten, done away by deregulation and Wall St. greed in what director Charles Ferguson ("No End in Sight") and cowriter/editors Chad Beck and Adam Bolt posit was an "Inside Job."
Charles Ferguson's "No End in Sight" was a real eye-opening analysis of what caused the Iraq war and the administrative failures which followed. In his followup, Ferguson isn't forging the new path he did with his prior film. "Inside Job" does succeed in making a very complex subject easily understandable, but for anyone who followed the extensive series of articles published in Vanity Fair magazine (subsequently gathered into book form as "The Great Hangover: 21 Tales of the New Recession from the Pages of Vanity Fair"), "Inside Job" offers little new or surprising (they do go more into the incestuousness of academics with Wall St.). Still, it's a pretty solid primer.
Ferguson even pretty much follows Vanity Fair's three part format beginning with Wall St. happenings that signalled economic collapse, their causes and Washington's hand in the causes and effect and how, going forward, the Obama administration has mired itself in a business-as-usual bind by having hired the very people who were involved in the debacle (interestingly enough, Larry summers recently announced his White House departure, to be replaced by Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard Law professor tasked with overseeing TARP, perhaps a political response to this very documentary?). It's really disheartening to hear that when Goldman Sachs' CEO Henry Paulson was hired to head the U.S. Treasury, by law he had to sell his shares in the company - and in so doing saved 50 million because that law rewarded the penalty by allowing the sale to be tax free.
Ferguson shoots a lot of the usual talking heads, disgraced ex New York governor Eliot Spitzer being a wise choice, and he goes global too, Singapore's PM noting that the lure of 'creating something from nothing' was too strong a temptation). Even when familiar with events, one cannot help but become outraged all over again and the sheer greed and lack of concern for one's fellow man on display (a nice touch - Ferguson employs a psychiatrist who treated many of these guys to comment on their psychological makeup, and from there segues to a Wall St. Madame who could aid a prosecution against them which has inexplicably failed to happen). The illegality of many Wall St. doings, like Citibank's processing of Mexican drug money or Credit Suisse's laundering of Iranian nuclear cash is mind blowing, but the U.S. Government even retroactively overturned a law one year after an illegal Citigroup merger to accommodate them!
The filmmakers return to a Chinese factory where the dwindling number of works becomes alarming, showing the depths of human misery caused world wide by the greed of those who've kept their spoils. Charts, graphs, skylines and city streets illustrate astounding statistics. Matt Damon proves to be the perfect narrator for the material, his voice sober but occasionally tinged with tongue-in-cheek personality. He's never dry. Ferguson and cinematographers Svetlana Cvetko and Kalyanee Mam go out of their way to differentiate their interview subjects by coming up with some unusual settings and backdrops and by varying their framing.
For all the people who declined to be interviewed for Feruson's's film (Alan Greenspan, Pauling, Larry Summers....), one of the scariest takeaways of "Inside Job" is that Frederic Mishkin, the man who was Governor of the Federal Reserve, didn't. How could a man who interviews so poorly, who stumbles into one embarrassment after another, have held this post?
Robin did not see this film.
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