Mark Reviews Movies


3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Charles Ferguson

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for some drug and sex-related material)

Running Time: 2:00

Release Date: 10/8/10 (limited); 10/15/10 (wider)

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Review by Mark Dujsik | October 14, 2010

It's not that Inside Job reveals everything we feared about the global financial crisis with which we're still dealing. We always at least sensed that there some people in that entity known as Wall Street who had rigged the game so that they might benefit from the devastation of the lives of others. Director Charles Ferguson, who we might as well start calling a journalist after this and his dissemination on the war in Iraq No End in Sight, holds the entire system to an accountability that seems an unattainable goal in the real world.

The reason, Ferguson dissects, is the actual fear we've had: That Wall Street is making the policy—and not in a vague, shadowy way. They are there, behind the scenes, concocting the thin regulations or furthering deregulations on an industry that found a way for a few to thrive the most when the entire system failed. They even found a way to make what amounts to bets on the inevitability that it would fail.

These wages are derivatives, more specifically credit default swaps. They make no sense, because they aren't supposed to make sense. Patiently, with charts, graphics, interviews from experts, and a prologue featuring the microcosm of a deregulated Iceland, Ferguson, in perhaps the film's greatest coup, details the entire scheme: How it was set up to be nearly indecipherable so no one without an inside knowledge of the game would know what was happening.

The target, despicably enough, were people trying to buy homes with a loan from their local banks. Little did they know they were being given a high-risk loan that was being sold to huge multinational investment banks while others were putting money on the fact that the home buyers wouldn't be able to make the payments. When those first bills came in, with an amount far exceeding what they were expecting and what they could pay, people knew something was wrong.

Some ended up losing their homes, some still are, and others more than likely will in the future. In the great depression they moved into shanty towns, and now they call them tent cities.

If you've ever wondered how people who could cause such ruin sleep at night, it turns out quite soundly. Ferguson interviews a therapist who had patients who worked on Wall Street. They like prostitutes. They like cocaine. They especially like paying sex workers through their company's accounts, an escort explains, as long as the payment is labeled as something innocuous, like a "consulting fee." An MRI shows that when some people, presumably like the ones who scammed so many, are tested and the prize is money, the part of their brain that cocaine affects is stimulated. There are hints of the sociopath in them, having no regard for the well-being of others.

Did they know people would lose their homes over this? Probably, but the more important thing to remember is that they didn't care.

I cannot emphasize enough how dispassionate Ferguson is on the subject, despite my own tone. Part of it is Matt Damon's calm, collected narration serving as the director's voice, but most of it is in how detailed his record of the ins and outs, the ups and mostly downs of this entire situation is. There is simply no time for emotion on his part.

Even Ferguson cannot hold back his disbelief when questioning some of the participants, most of whom refused to be interviewed, a fact Ferguson, the honest journalist he is, lets us know. There's a pattern to these things that started with Ronald Reagan. Former CEOs of major companies and banks are in positions of power and influence, deciding what rules and regulations to make or break. They do this then run off to jobs as consultants for those companies they've aided. There are economics teachers in universities who praise the "pure" "free market" system and rail against regulations. On the side, they are also consultants for major companies who benefit from such an economic philosophy.

Ferguson asks these players about their ties. They refuse to answer, because "It's not relevant." This kind of naked indoctrination is frightening, in addition to being clearly unethical. More infuriating, of course, is the realization that the more things change the more they stay the same. The actions documented in Inside Job should land people in jail, but, beyond the fact that the current administration seems just fine continuing the same strategy, the crooks are the people who helped to shape the law in the first place.

Copyright © 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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