(Dir. Charles Ferguson, 2010)
"I don't know what credit default swaps are. I'm old fashioned that way." - George Soros
That makes 2 of us. There are many things like that in this documentary that I was completely in the dark about going in, yet in a sober (and sobering) manner INSIDE JOB explains the financial meltdown of 2008 in a fairly graspable way.
Matt Damon calmly narrates the film, taking us through segments entitled "How We Got Here", "The Bubble", "The Crisis", "Accountability", and "Where We Are Now". It's a lot of complicated information to take in, but through interviews with key players such as the before mentioned financier George Soros, U.S. House Representative Barney Frank, former NY State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Economics professor Nouriel Roubini, economist Paul Volcker, and many others, the film does an impressive, if at times impenetrable, job of breaking it down.
Ferguson, whose previous film the Iraq war doc NO END IN SIGHT was just as exhaustive, has a real knack for assembling a powerful narrative out of a tangled web of sometimes extremely confusing criteria. We learn about corporate fat cats pocketing millions sometimes billions of dollars from corrupt loans.
We see power point presentation style graphics that help define CDOs (collateralized debt obligations), subprime lending, and all kind of mortage mayhem. We even get an interview with a former Wall Street "Madam" (Kristin Davis) who supplied investment bankers with prostitutes.
It's an excellent eye-opening documentary that thankfully uses a minimum of Michael Moore-ish methods like pop song punctuation.
Peter Gabriel's "Big Time" plays during the opening credit swoop through the Manhattan skyline, and Ace Frehley's "New York Groove" provides a backing beat to footage of excessive lifestyles, but such touches don't intrude at all on the thesis at hand.
INSIDE JOB is more informative than it is entertaining and its conclusion that criticizes President Obama for doing little to change the situation is depressing, but it's an incredibly well crafted and sharply focused work that got my mind reeling.
That is, even if I still can't tell you exactly what a credit default swap is.