With a movie such as this and a topic so important and divisive, I think it best for me to first state a few things about myself, political or otherwise. I don’t want to go into too much detail about my politics, since this is still about a movie first and foremost, but I will say I am not affiliated with any party. And I think the word they’re labeling me with lately is centrist… whatever. More important to this review and the topic at hand is how I react to documentaries, especially the hot topic variety. I like to think I’m smart and have a passing knowledge about most subjects, but I’m no expert (except on movies). And the truth is, when a doc comes along and presents me with a convincing argument about global warming, dolphin killing, McDonald’s, or in this film’s case, the financial crisis, I’m more likely than not to go along with it. I’m not naive enough to accept everything as truth, but if you present your case clearly enough, you’re going to win a convert.
It helps that director/writer/producer Charles Ferguson’s breakdown of Wall Street is so clear and concise. It begins with an enlightening prologue about the microcosm disaster that is Iceland. After years of regulated banks, low poverty and clean living, Iceland fell apart almost instantly after some deregulation. The thesis couldn’t be any clearer: regulation good, deregulation bad. The film then shifts to Wall Street, how the greed, hubris, and stupidity of the financial sector, not to mention a few glaring conflicts of interest, brought about the near destruction of the global economy.
I haven’t really been following all this for two reasons: 1) it’s kind of confusing, and 2) my daughter was born the day after the big collapse. So, part of why I saw this documentary was to get up to speed, and the film gave me exactly what I was looking for. It’s split into five easy to follow chapters, detailing how deregulation has been implemented and abused, beginning with Reagan and continuing through Obama (Democrats and Republicans are equally skewered). I still don’t think I could do a decent job of explaining the details of the meltdown, but I do feel like I understand it now. There are plenty of helpful graphs and charts; Ferguson has assembled a lot of smart people to interview and explain the situation.
Which is all well and good, but is it a good and entertaining movie? Definitely. The pacing is quick and tense. Instead of an info dump, it feels like a suspense film. The interviews are lively, even hilarious at times when subjects are caught speechless and/or ill-tempered. Everything feels well researched and all-inclusive. I wouldn’t consider it the cliff notes version of the crisis, but more like the class with the passionate teacher who manages to get the goth kid to read aloud and doesn’t assign homework.
Inside Job might not be as interesting if you already feel you know what happened. However, I think there’s enough here for both the informed and uninformed alike to make it worthwhile. This isn’t really about politics, so don’t let that discourage you. The preference for regulation isn’t based on ideology but forensic science. The economy is dead and the movie investigates who killed it and how, using facts and reason. Again, maybe I’m too much of a pushover, quick to nod my head, but I haven’t seen anyone else with a rebuttal as thorough as this movie. It doesn’t do anything too wild or inventive, but it’s never dull and there’s the added bonus of Matt Damon narrating.