INSIDE JOB is a documentary about the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. Its premise is that the United States had laws to prevent such a crisis that were put in place as a result of the Great Depression. The movie says that for the forty years until the 1980s, the US economy was stable. From the 1980s onwards deregulation has created a financial sector that has comparatively few checks and balances.
The movie goes further and claims that the sector is dominated by a half dozen large players (GOLDMAN SACHS et al.) who gambled heavily with other people’s money and created a bubble that burst and caused a worldwide economic downturn that we are still living with. Moreover the film points out that that none of those responsible have been charged or even arrested.
How you view these claims depends on your ideological slant. The movie is filled with powerful men who do not agree with INSIDE JOB’S premise. Their ideology is there should be no regulation of their business activities because they know what’s best. It turns out they still think this despite losing millions upon millions of other people’s dollars.
These are men who often turn out to have surprisingly faulty memories under questioning or worse still deny any wrong doing whatsoever. We see some of these denials taking place before Senate subcommittees. These are men with A-Type personalities who have spent their professional lives making incredible sums of money for their shareholders and sometimes losing incredible sums for their shareholders and either way being rewarded with astronomical salaries and bonuses.
INSIDE JOB lays out a chronology of the GFC, but also creates a longer timeline that includes the deregulatory frenzy of the Reagan years. It has a powerful cast of real life characters that includes politicians, regulators, financiers, CEO’s and academics. It traces the links between the private and public sector and makes it clear that there is a revolving door between government and big business. You knew this, but seeing the diagram drawn with such searing clarity will disturb and anger many in the audience.
This was observable at the screening I attended. The men behind me muttered darkly as case after case of corruption and law breaking were documented. The audience generally laughed at the breath-taking examples of professional misconduct and conflicts of interest. The information presented is comprehensive although occasionally revealed at a dizzying pace. The slick and inventive infographics are mostly very useful. The style of shooting is appropriately glossy as befits a story of obscene wealth.
Writer-director Charles Ferguson was also responsible for the critically lauded 2007 documentary feature NO END IN SIGHT: IRAQ’S DESCENT INTO CHAOS. His current feature has been nominated for a documentary Oscar.
INSIDE JOB is a documentary that pushes a particular line. From the start it makes its pro-regulatory stance clear. It supports the little guy over the big corporations. The film will be reviled by those who believe America’s business is business and embraced by audiences who connected with films like THE CORPORATION (2003) and ENRON THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM (2006).
INSIDE JOB is currently screening in Australia. It is expertly narrated by Matt Damon and has a running time of 120 minutes. I rated it 4/5.