Sunday, October 31, 2010

Inside Job

Charles Ferguson's "Inside Job" is edifying and revealing, to be sure, about the 2008 economic crash. However, it sprawls too far and is too long (even at 120 minutes) to be more than a mild success. I doubt, however, that it will disappoint its core audience, who are uninterested in structural flaws and who come for a barrage against Wall Street. They'll definitely get that, just as those hoping to see Bush's Iraq War tactics get trashed did with Ferguson's "No End in Sight." This guy picks the zeitgeist topic of the moment and gets as far as he can with it. And, considering this film's reign at Cannes this year (reaching the top of the Indiewire Critics Poll), that's pretty far.

Enough of my docu-cynic routine. Some of what is displayed here is appalling. Consider how the financial "food chain" was expanded and complicated with the introduction of CPO loans. It got to the point where banks were selling weak loans and simultaneously betting against them. That's worse than Pete Rose, folks, and you saw what happened to him. As the film repeatedly tells us, there will be no such luck for the amoral bankers.

Or look at Frederic Mishkin, who for some reason allowed himself to be interviewed (unlike many, many people, a fact that is repetitively announced to the audience). He wrote a paper called "Financial Stability in Iceland," just before the country's economy went to pieces. Look at his CV now and you'll only see a paper entitled "Financial Instability in Iceland." Yes, this apparently respected man is actually corrupt enough to change the title of his report to look better.

Going into much more detail about the movie would be essentially ruining it for you. The power of these sorts of films is the filmmaker channeling their findings to you, not me. I will say that the film is pretty educational, as I know a lot more about the economy than I did before. Maybe now it's because I was actually paying attention to a source about it.

Ferguson is a man of facts, not technique. The film is pretty much cobbled together, shifting tones constantly and bizarrely, with an ending that's utterly preachy. More importantly, the film front-loads most of its incendiary material, and while the Mishkin idiocy comes later on, its in a less provocative section. And am I the only one who found the section on the actual crisis a bit thin? It's tackled from only a CNN-level perspective, which is unfortunate.

To rank this film above "Certified Copy," as the polled critics did, is ridiculous. But it would be correct to say that this film is to some degree effective in exposing the vices and dishonorable "inside jobs" performed by members of Wall Street, who get richer and buy more while everyone else flounders. B-

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Brilliant review -- I love what you said about his taking "the zeitgeist topic of the moment and running with it as far as he can." I loved your Pete Rose remark, too. :-) So true.

This does sound like a documentary that would interest me, even if its shelf life isn't particularly long. And corporate corruption, and its effects on our national economy, is definitely a topic that -- sadly -- will continue to be visited again and again.