Taken in tandem with An Inconvenient Truth and Waiting for Superman, Inside Job, Charles Ferguson’s chilling and informative documentary on the Wall Street house of cards, rounds out a trilogy of real worldly terror. All three docs use entertaining filmic means to convey the darker and seemingly unsolvable problems facing the major driving forces in the lives of everyone on this planet—the environment, education, and the financial system, respectively.
Inside Job is a fascinating documentary, albeit marred by some questionable journalistic tactics, that bravely tells a scary story that runs deep into the infrastructure of Wall Street and the world at large. Ferguson is keen to tell his tale, while also offering educational aids in understanding a willfully complex, post-deregulated financial system awash in “derivatives,” “credit default swaps,” and “CDOs,” geared toward lubing a capitalist’s connivances.
With some help from Matt Damon, the film’s narrator, Ferguson skillfully creates a two-hour examination of the financial meltdown. The story begins in Iceland, where the 2008 catastrophe signaled a harbinger of things to come, and moves backward and forward in trying to explore this necessarily tangled horror story. The end result is compelling and chilling, and it presents an age-old theme in very real, very Main Street-affecting ways: Money corrupts, on Wall Street, in the “Wall Street government,” and even into academic quarters such as Harvard and Columbia, where economics professors can be bought and molded.
In his zeal and interest in getting maximum outrage from his viewers, Ferguson does indulge in some dubious cheap-shot tactics. He clearly identifies the multitude of bigwigs unwilling to be interviewed for the film (was it because they had something to hide, or because they questioned the legitimacy of the doc, or both?) and gleefully gets those interviewees in the hot seat to squirm and stammer when pressed with incriminating questions. It makes for glitzier show biz, but diminishes the film’s integrity. The facts themselves speak loudly enough to inspire dread and disbelief.
True confession: I still don’t know what a “credit default swap” is, but I don’t think I’d want to meet one in a dark alley, or a clean-lit banking institution.