Inside Job (2010)
Directed by: Charles Ferguson
Sony Pictures Classics
Synopsis: A documentary that deconstructs the factors that led to the Credit Crisis of 2008.
Overview: Inside Job, Charles Ferguson’s searing documentary about the Credit Crisis, is one of the most deliberate and unrelenting investigations in the popular documentary canon. Taking a politically liberal stance, the film condemns the bankers and government employees in power, and in some ways plays almost as if the director is deconstructing a mastermind heist. Even the title Inside Job is a fitting descriptor for the work done by the film’s interviewees, detailing their roles in a multilevel scheme with banks and rating agencies, among others, who knowingly conducted and participated in fraudulent behavior. Juxtaposed against the grave nature of the film’s initial tone – including a depiction of Iceland’s economic crash inflicted by “an elite so small, ‘you could practically fit them into a restaurant'” – Inside Job’s opening credits are accompanied by Peter Gabriel’s ’80s hit “Big Time.” Amongst the strains of Gabriel’s lyrics crooning “I’m on my way, I’m making it big time,” sound bites are pieced together from interviewees that enforce the negative stereotypes of banking culture at its peak; excessive use of cocaine, prostitutes on the company’s dime, and an acknowledgement of the fact that the bankers’ behavior was both risky and destructive, all in the name of money. Taking quick, easy jabs at the surface-level outrageousness of the bankers, Inside Job then sets the stage for a well-paced, intellectual unraveling of exactly how the housing bubble was created and burst, and the variety of political, socioeconomic, and cultural components in it that came in to play. Damon’s cool, calm narration underscores a quiet yet potent sense of discontent, and it is this tone that both demystifies the Credit Crisis to the viewer, as well as highlights the vast socioeconomic inequalities between those who committed the crimes and those who suffered from them. This strategy makes Inside Job memorable and gut-wrenching; Ferguson never relents in his level-headed approach as an interviewer, allowing the outbursts and requests to speak off the record by those who caused the crisis linger with an unsettling gravitas.
In the current political climate, Inside Job makes for necessary viewing. It’s a start in explaining how embedded finance is within politics and academics and delves, too, into the long-term recklessness and collusion between the two. Broken down into five sections, the film provides a clear outline of what, who, and why we got to the 2008 financial collapse, allowing the viewer to follow along and peel back the layers of a complex financial disaster. What I found particularly chilling was the corruption that the financial industry fosters within the study of economics – it leaves us with the question of who to trust, if anyone. Inside Job serves as an excellent companion piece to The Big Short (also available for streaming on Netflix), and both are approachable and engaging. However, Inside Job is a far more informative and accurate depiction of the crisis, and places more weight on the ways that governmental regulations and policy worked in tandem with the bad actors of the financial services industry. As one can see in the film, the toxicity of the financial services industry and allure of greed had the ability to permeate some of our most important offices – a harrowing message to keep in mind as we navigate the new terrain of the Trump administration.
Featured Image: Sony Pictures Classics