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INSIDE JOB ( USA )
A comprehensive analysis of the 2008 global financial crisis with extensive interviews with key financial insiders, politicians, journalists and academics and the rogue industry that has corrupted politics, regulation and academia.
Review by Louise Keller:
You don't have to be a financial whiz kid to find this superbly made documentary fascinating. As gripping as any thriller, Inside Job tells us everything we wanted to know about the global financial crisis but didn't know the right questions to ask. Informative, intriguing, funny in an ironic way with blatantly terrifying implications, filmmaker Charles Ferguson has constructed a five-part film which describes, explains and analyses what, why and how it happened. We can digest as little or as much as we want; to absorb it all, more than one viewing is required.
The film - like the financial crisis - begins in Iceland and we are told that 'nothing comes without consequence'. Ferguson gives us plenty of information and context in which to understand the scenario, the players and how things play out. How We Got Here, The Bubble, The Crisis, Accountability and Where We Are Now are the titles of the five sections, in which we hear about deregulation, corruption, derivatives, subprime loans, credit default swaps, increased leverage, incentives to take risks without penalties, which for some banking executives, result in yachts, cars, expensive baubles, designer goods, luxury pads, fleets of jets and private elevators. It is shocking to hear that companies start betting against their own investment and how the world of academia has found itself a massive income stream as consultants. As Andrew Sheng, Chief Advisor to the China Banking Regulatory Commission observes, the financial rewards of an engineer who builds bridges and a financial engineer who builds dreams (which can turn into nightmares) are out of proportion.
Ferguson's offscreen voice is heard posing informed, tough questions to high flyers in the financial world. This provides context for the answers, some of which are almost funny (or pathetic), given the circumstances. Many notable players in this roulette game decline to be interviewed. Holy cow, says Christine Lagarde, French Minister of Finance, Economic Affairs, Industry and Employment, being her response to the news of the collapse. The greed impact ripples on the world's pond, affecting people in all walks of life.
Matt Damon's punchy narration, together with the slick editing, bring everything together and the film looks wonderful as aerial shots of New York City are integrated with interviews and footage of congress committee hearings. Information is power, we are told and this film offers a valuable vault of information that we can only hope will be used wisely. The fact that US tax policy favours the wealthy and that those who made the decisions during the financial crisis are now serving in the Obama administration, is alarming and should not be ignored.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
He names and shames some of America's most influential financial executives - and filmmaker Charles Ferguson shows how they continue to wield power in the Obama administration, having successfully survived the global financial crisis in which they were culpable. Their wealth intact. Some, but not all; several key bankers declined to be interviewed. Let's hope it was out of deep shame, not just fear of being pilloried on screen, as were a few of the interviewees.
Inside Job can really be said to be a Charles Ferguson film, more so than most films which are presented that way, because it is Ferguson who powers and drives the film in every respect - most importantly with his direct and well informed questioning. We hear his questions, and we also hear when he contradicts his more evasive and dissembling subjects.
One victim ... er...subject, Glenn Hubbard, objects to Ferguson's questions claiming "this isn't a deposition"; he had been polite enough to give the interview but was not going to answer the more damning questions. Well, he didn't have to; we know the answers from the way he behaves on camera. This is the Hubbard who was Chief Economic Advisor in the Bush administration and is currently Dean of Columbia University Business School. Ferguson showed how Hubbard was an advocate of deregulation of financial services and supplements his income with consultancies - to the financial services sector.
By no means is Hubbard the only fish that Ferguson fries; Frederick Mishkin is another economist (and professor at Columbia's Business School) who ends up looking foolish and/or venal. So do several others, not least Ben Bernanke, the current Chairman of the Federal Reserve and his predecessor, Alan Greenspan.
But there are some good guys - and girls; like author Charles Morris, economists Raghuram Rajan and Nouriel Roubini, Hungarian currency speculator George Soros and Eliot Spitzer, who initiated lawsuits against all the major US banks (on fraud charges) which cost the banks US$1.4 billion.
Among the women interviewed are France's Minister of Finance, Christine Lagarde and Kristin Davis, the 'madam' whose girls serviced thousands (literally) investment bankers from Wall Street. She served four months for promoting prostitution in one of the great ironies of this story. The real whores escaped jail; but thanks to Ferguson, we now know who they are and where they live.
Footnote: And who is this Charles Ferguson? After obtaining his Ph.D. in political science from M.I.T. in 1989, Ferguson conducted postdoctoral research at MIT while also consulting to the White House, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Department of Defense, and several U.S. and European high technology firms.