A deserved Oscar winner, Inside Job charts the cause, explosion and aftermath of the economic crisis of 2008. As the world continues to reel from the damage the crisis caused, the film offers poignant explanation for the devastating disaster.
Charles Ferguson’s documentary opens with a brief case study of Iceland. Once seen as a wonderful financial example, it suffered a devastating economic crisis after the deregulation and privatisation of its banks. Interspersing Iceland’s story with dramatic scenes of natural beauty the impact of their ruin is accentuated. This, with a shot of graffitied wall asking ‘where’s my fucking money?’, sets the tone for the film that follows.
Exploring the different factors that, together, caused 2008’s financial meltdown, Inside Job focuses its efforts on interviewing those responsible for America’s money. The absence of those who refused to be interviewed is telling and adds to the damning story the film tells. Highlighting the greed of prominent banking officials the film explains the lure of making money for nothing. The deregulation bought into action under Reagan’s presidency is discussed and the subsequent risk-taking the banks were legally allowed to do is addressed. Essentially granting banks the opportunity to gamble with ridiculous figures in a giant pissing contest, the American government is repeatedly shown smiling about the financial ticking time bomb.
The film takes an in-depth look at the loans given by banks in the late nighties and 2000’s and draws light to the hypocrisy evident in them. Labelled as AAA (the highest safety rating a loan can get) the vast majority of loans were in fact part of predatory lending schemes as well as being ‘sub prime’ – meaning the persons taking the loan out were paying above the odds. With the banks knowing full well that repayment was unlikely they essentially withdrew insurance schemes with companies such as AIG to cover losses.
Highlighting the importance placed on short term rewards achieved via massive risks the film sets up the inevitability of the meltdown and uses news reports to great effect to show countless official’s false financial promises. Again and again the film shows that the government was aware of the impending crisis but made no contingency plan and, when interviewees are faced with difficult questions, they enter stutter-mode and damningly ask for the filming to stop.
The blame is placed largely at America’s feet and the global impact is highlighted. When a foreign woman is reduced to tears at the predicament the disaster has left her and her family in no subtitles are needed to translate the despair she feels. Despite the devastation caused, those largely responsible are shown to not only be getting richer but are also still being given prominent places in government to provide advice that has fared so badly before. Similarities are drawn between such men and common thieves whilst the film closes with the awful fact that many Americans are both worse off and less educated than their parents.
Throughout you’re left with the nagging question; why didn’t they see it coming and, if they did, why hadn’t they prepared better, if at all, for it? The film shows those responsible spending countless millions on prostitution and cocaine while the global economy began to creak. Interesting graphics and charts are utilised throughout making for manageable viewing whilst also clarifying the stark figures being bounded around.
Inside Job is superbly directed and is filmed frankly. Matt Damon’s narration adds a no-nonsense quality to the documentary and it thankfully shies away from the humour sometimes associated with such documentaries to help lighten their matter. The film itself offers a wake-up call that is, alas, given too late. A true horror story, it is an illuminating documentary that gives the facts that have, thus far, been half-heartedly given. A must watch.