(No longer in theaters)
Charles Ferguson, Audrey Marrs
Sony Pictures Classics
Oct 8, 2010
The sounds began early at the New York Film Festival screening of Inside Job: Titters of incredulity, hoots of derision, then a sort of audible trembling. Was the audience watching a sci-fi disaster in which pompous fools ignore the approaching onslaught? No—and yes. Inside Job tells the story of the economic collapse of 2008, and it’s the horror movie of the decade. As he proved in his Iraq-centered No End in Sight, policy wonk turned documentarian Charles Ferguson has no peer when it comes to tracking the course of a preventable catastrophe. No Michael Moore–ish grandstander, he strives for a tone of objectivity; the drama is in whether he’ll be able to hold his emotions in check. It’s impressive how long he goes before the signs of disgust and indignation creep in.
Opening in Iceland (waterfalls, volcanoes, people yelling they’ve been duped), the film traces the crusade to deregulate, leading banks to reward risk, however insane. Many of those who warned of dire consequences show up (understandably) to say “No one listened,” while the major scoundrels behind the bad loans didn’t deign (or dare) to be interviewed. That means no Richard Fuld of Lehman ¬Brothers or Joseph Cassano of AIG. Also, no Randians like Robert Rubin, Lawrence Summers, and, of course, Alan Greenspan. Wrong Way Corrigans who do appear, accustomed to the company of their own kind, prove shockingly inept at accounting for their actions. Former Federal Reserve governor Frederic Mishkin claims he left at the height of the crisis to “finish a textbook” (swell timing), and his 2006 testament to Iceland’s financial stability mysteriously appears on his CV as a report on its “instability.” (“A typo,” he says.) But it’s Columbia Business School dean and Bush-tax-cut architect Glenn Hubbard who steals the picture. Pressed on apparent conflicts of interest, he drops his Dr. Jekyll manner and sneers, “You have a few more minutes … Give it your best shot.”
You say Inside Job is a bit like a classroom documentary? It’s a class you need to take. You won’t be bored—you’ll be seething too much. The bad guys devastated millions of lives, made staggering fortunes that remain intact, and got away clean. And are still writing the laws. Be very afraid.