INSIDE JOB Documentary Review
If a heist film is a movie that has an intricate plot woven around a group of people trying to steal something, then INSIDE JOB isn’t a documentary exposing the disgraceful truths behind the great financial crisis of 2008, it’s the sequel to Michael Mann’s crime thriller, Heat. But this time the criminals don’t shoot their way out of a bank vault, they simply walk out, their pockets stuffed with cash handed to them by a cooperative bank president.
That’s your money in their pockets and if that revelation doesn’t piss you off then Academy Award nominated filmmaker Charles Ferguson (No End in Sight) hopes that the naming of the chief catalysts behind the 20 trillion dollar global meltdown will.
There’s enough blame to go around too. It’s the Republicans (Reagan/Bush) and the Democrats (Clinton/Obama); it’s lawmakers and lobbyists and its greedy and gullible foreign governments wanting in on the subprime mortgage party. Take Iceland. After their government’s shortsighted adoption of deregulation ideology their banks take a bite of America’s toxic securitized investments, and the country’s financial sector, stable for so many years, goes belly up.
But most interestingly – and arguably most scathingly – Ferguson accuses the Academics. One of Inside Job‘s most compelling moments occur when Ferguson interviews Glenn Hubbard the current dean of the Columbia University Business School and a former chief economic advisor during the Bush administration. Onscreen the cornered Dean, who is strongly implicated in pushing the Bush-era policies that caused the system to implode, and who is called out for collecting hefty checks for shilling corporation-friendly economic ideas, bares his teeth and reveals that beneath the façade of the nerdy academic lies a vicious political animal, red in tooth and claw.
In fact, this unveiling of the all too tidy relationship between business school academics and Wall Street institutions is one of the more original aspects of a documentary that, by no fault of its own, oftentimes goes over ground last seen in Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story and Leslie Cockburn’s American Casino. Yes, we already knew that the “unbiased” opinions of the ratings agencies (the three largest and most influential being Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch) were up for sale to the highest bidder, but it takes Ferguson to remind us that it’s the same deal with some of our most influential business school academics. Yes, be careful what you read is the message; the rot goes deep.
If anyone is spared the glare of Ferguson’s camera it’s the speculators who flipped homes for profit and the naive homebuyers who forgot the old adage: if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Their stories are not that compelling after all. Investments fail. People default on homes. That’s dog-bites-man news. The man-bites-dog stuff lies in exposing that the explosive fuel driving the success of the financial industry is the corrupt triumvirate of Wall Street, its regulators and academia. The obvious question will be: why is it that no one goes to jail? But you’ll already know the answer.
Ultimately Inside Job is an expertly told tale about the success of democracy. At least the version that says if you organize like-minded individuals into a powerful lobby, and you use that power to co-mingle with and pay off the right folks, then you too can create your own rules and regulations, even those that endanger the health of the world’s financial system. Perhaps this is Ferguson’s entire point: Inside Job shows us how crooks make democracy work for them. Now how will you make democracy work for you?
Inside Job comes out in limited release on October 8th 2010. Check your local theaters for times.