Director: Charles Ferguson
Cinematographers: Svetlana Cvetko, Kalyanee Mam – Cinematographer
Starring: Matt Damon (Narration)
Studio: Sony PIctures Classics
A whodunnit where everybody’s the victim
Charles Ferguson makes a different kind of documentary. There are no dramatizations, no voice-overs from the grave. There are no “what ifs” and very few “how dare theys.” He is not a provocateur or even a trained filmmaker. He’s a political scientist, a product of the Brookings Institute and MIT. He takes on subjects and collects actual facts, knowing that the best way for a documentary to make its point is to make that point absolutely irrefutable.
In 2007 Ferguson released No End In Sight, a brilliant doc about the mishandling of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. It could reasonably be described as old school—talking heads, archives and straightforward explanation—but it remains one of the most compelling films on the subject, and required viewing for every American. The same can be said for Ferguson’s latest film Inside Job. With his sophomore effort Ferguson turns his critical eye on our recent trillion-dollar economic downturn.
The film methodically outlines a well-reasoned argument, starting at the top of the spiral and carrying us all the way through “how the hell this happened.” It tracks our country’s steady financial deregulation back 30 years, presenting it not as any great conspiracy but rather as a series of risks not worth taking. It presents the financial crash not as a disaster out of nowhere, but rather as a wave we all saw coming while remaining immobile on a beach, waiting patiently for it to hit us.
You’ll know a lot more at the end of Ferguson’s film than you do at the beginning. Economic buzzwords are defined. You’ll know what derivatives are. You’ll know what CDOs are. You’ll know how the housing boom exploded in all of our faces. You’ll know both the architects and beneficiaries of our fiscal doom, and you’ll have a pretty good idea what they all were thinking (hint: Cha ching).
Above all though, you’ll know that you’re furious, and Ferguson seems to be, too. You can hear it in the interviewer’s voice as he suffers lobbyists, apologists and Pollyannas. Why else would he end the film the way he does, with a “strap on a pair” bumper-sticker-like voice-over and a shot of Lady Liberty? That’s a little out of character for him, but after meticulously studying a subject like this one can’t help but allow him a couple ‘how dare theys’ and maybe even a ‘gotcha’ or two.
Bennett Webber is a comedy writer in Los Angeles who is very serious about film and dichotomies. For short, sweet capsule reviews and attempts at crude humor, follow him on Twitter at bnutbrittle