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Film Review: Inside Job

Inside Job (2010; Directed by Charles Ferguson)

Charles Ferguson’s expose of the complex and alarming saga of the still-simmering world financial crisis is full of solid assertions, alarming graphs, and contentious interviews, and it establishes with clear-eyed definition that the global financial collapse was not sudden, unexpected, or abberant. As far as a factual basis for its origins can be ascertained, the dynamite that went off in the middle of 2008 and took billions of dollars with it was just the explosive terminus of a slow-burning fuse that was central to the very profitability of the system itself.

Rife with the usual liberal outrage and excessive price-tag shock typical to progressive documentaries, Inside Job does kind of get lost in the jargon of the financial business here and there. I appreciate a film that doesn’t talk down to me, but a bit more annotation now and again would be useful. I can’t count how many documentaries I’ve now seen about the crisis of 2007-08, and yet I’m still not entirely clear on what derivatives are or how they work, let alone how anyone could have possibly believed that this sort of approach could work in the longer term. But then that’s probably why the folks who know how to rig this system get compensated in the millions to gamble with the life savings of ordinary citizens and I get paid zilch to complain about it on the internet.

Inside Job‘s ultimate problem is that the film’s closing note of defiance and hope, while understandably appealing, is not very well supported by the avalanche of evidence that leads up to it. This documentary works hard and smart to suggest that Wall Street’s crooked greed has not been reined in and is unlikely to ever be so for entirely structural reasons. Ferguson is right that a major course-correction in this sphere is precisely the sort of change that America requires to pull itself out of its self-destructive spiral, but regulation alone is unlikely to curb its enthusiasm in the manner required. Simply “fighting” for change without any strategy or particular hope for success is not exactly the most inspiring of closing messages, but it’s what Ferguson provides here. A very strong documentary overall, but hardly full of either searing revelations or thoughtful remedies.

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  1. September 17, 2012 at 6:58 am
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