We’ve all sat in the cinema terrified by a knife-wielding psychopath on screen, or a liver-eating genius. We’ve subtly tried to avoid looking as suspense grows and we know some sort of evil incarnation is lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce on a nubile Hollywood starlet. Horror films offer harmless thrills, the usual reaction after been frightened is laughter as we realise something rather inane has got the better of us just for a moment. However the new documentary Inside Job, which looks at the causes and consequences of the 2008 economic collapse, is truly terrifying cinema-viewing, and there will be no nervous giggling after watching this film.
Charles Ferguson the filmmaker behind 2007’s No End In Sight, which investigated America’s complete mishandling and lack of understanding of Iraq in the lead up to and during the first year of invasion, has taken on a humongous task. Using the 109 mins running time to try and understand and explain the reasons for the economic crisis and the roles that different groups played in the collapse, Ferguson conducts a series of interviews with Economists, Lobbyists, Advisors, Politicians, Bankers, Regulators and Journalists. Narrated by actor Matt Damon, the documentary examines the historical background and increasing deregulation of banking in the US, the criminalisation of an industry and the on-going problems and issues that are impeding any reform even after massive bailouts.
The wealth and greed of Wall Street comes as no surprise with the obvious villains of the piece being companies like Goldman and Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Bear Stearns. By now most of us understand that the root cause of the recent stock-market crash has to do with deregulation, and that the subprime mortgaging system and something called ‘derivatives’ led us to the brink of an economic Armageddon. But as the film delves deeper into banking and investment practices and the use Credit Default Swaps (CDS) the true ethics of modern banking are revealed. Watching this doco you feel first angry then afraid. You certainly never fully appreciated the immense greed that permeates not just the banking institutions but that has also corrupted many of those who are meant to keep checks on the industry and the academics who are suppose to advise and lead it.
Thankfully for those less economically-minded the film gives succinct explanations of complicated financial practices, without making you feel like you are being talked down to. Ferguson is a consummate interviewer and while he has final editing powers, many of his more hostile interviewees fall prey to their own egos. More often than not it is what they won’t and don’t say that proves to be the most telling.
Offering a comprehensive understanding of the financial meltdown and its causes, Inside Job is a highly accomplished documentary. Unlike Horror movies where you can remind yourself it isn’t real, it is hard not to leave this doco with a sense of dread, because those responsible for the World’s recent economic woes are still in the driving seat and despite the political promise of regulations, little to nothing has really changed.
Inside Job is released in Australia on February 17th
Director: Charles Ferguson
Features: William Ackman, Barney Frank, Robert Gnaizda, Christine Lagarde, Lee Hsien Loong, Raghuram Rajan, Andrew Sheng, George Soros, Gillian Tett, Martin Wolf