NZIFF ’10: Inside Job

nziff ’10: Inside Job
Dir. Charles Ferguson | USA | 2010 | 120 mins.

A brilliant, incisive documentary that exposes the greed-clogged heart of the financial crisis: the banking industry’s so-powerful-it-oughta-be-illegal influence on Capitol Hill. Directed by Charles Ferguson—whose previous film No End in Sight examined the widespread ineptitude and officially-sanctioned criminality during the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq—the documentary is, thankfully, not as boorish or bluntly-delivered as was Michael Moore’s Capitalism: a Love Story. Where the buffoonish Moore pleaded ignorance and goofily accosted Wall St. traders, asking them to explain how a derivative works in a thirty-second sound-bite as they were leaving work at the end of the day, Ferguson calmly explains, with the aid of simple animated info-graphics, such heretofore relatively mysterious buzz-words as “credit default swaps,” the “sub-prime” mortgage crisis and the trading of complex financial instruments in clear, simple language.

The film is divided into five sections which roughly run through how, why and when the crisis started; what actually happened in 2008; what happened in the aftermath of the bailouts (the bankers actually collected bonuses after completely failing at their jobs and screwing the economy); and what the Obama administration are doing about it now (not much—for one, Larry Summers is still lurking around the corridors of power). The film is similar in a way to last year’s The Cove, at least inasmuch as it’s a jarring wake-up-call that also happens to be incredibly entertaining. Moore’s film on the other hand, far from being a wake-up call, was relative snooze-fest punctuated every so often by melodramatic bank foreclosure sob-stories—an arena Ferguson wisely side-steps altogether. The crisis is about people losing their homes, sure, but not only are the economic facts more interesting, they’re also less manipulative. Instead of people crying about losing their houses, Ferguson opts for far more entertaining stories: ones about cocaine and hookers. Narrated by Matt Damon (“Matt Damon!”), Inside Job moves at quite a fast clip: there’s quite a lot of information to take in. It will probably be worth watching this again on dvd, where it will hopefully be accompanied by a bunch of extra features and extended interviews.

Inside Job will almost certainly be re-released at Rialto and similar cinemas in the near future.

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