Inside Job Review

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Matt Damon narrates this low-key but demanding documentary outlining the financial scandal of 2008. Using interviews with economists and politicians, it reveals how close the USA came to the brink of bankruptcy - and why it could all so easily happen again.


Inside Job debuted at the Cannes Film Festival last year, where it went mostly unnoticed. Had its narrator travelled with it, it may have made headlines. But no. Like Lucy Walker’s anti-nukes doc Countdown To Zero, Charles Ferguson’s riveting film held little appeal for the press, who, instead, wrote screeds about the lack of Hollywood clout at Cannes, the absence of stars and the quality of the films on offer.

Well, indirectly, Inside Job has lots to say on all those things. In short, much more than Fahrenheit 9/11 or any of Michael Moore’s films, it is a true barometer of our times, in that it dispassionately explains the financial mess that we find ourselves in. Beginning with the bankruptcy of Iceland, a country once labelled the safest financial bet in the world — by people in whose interests it was to say that, and whose decisions aren’t legally binding — Ferguson’s film strips the layers of mystery that surround the banking world. It’s not always easy to follow, but that’s part of the fraud: Inside Job tries to show that the recent crises are not part of an unforeseeable force majeure but the inevitable consequence of a system that manipulates the law at the expense of the many for the gratification of the few.

Ferguson uses Iceland as a test case, explaining how their banks became greedy, over-expanded and then flunked, bringing the country to its knees. Iceland, smaller than the average US state, got greedy, and this is what happened not just in America but Britain: as a result of a mix of banking deregulation (the US) and bonus culture (the UK), the West entered an era of casino capitalism, departing horribly from such old-fogey traditions as, oh, gold reserves and industrial performance into wild speculation about stock-market potential.

This is where Inside Job gets truly shocking, and even those left cold by the jargon will snap to attention when it is revealed that, under laboratory conditions, human brains given money for a task will react similarly to cocaine users. Depicting a revolving-door situation in which Wall Street advises Washington while protecting its own interests, Inside Job is a sobering, angering, but beautifully restrained attempt to alert us to the robbery that’s been going on in plain sight, leading to the current scenario of VAT rises, tuition fees and God knows what else. Bravo to Damon for putting his name to it, and, please, Charles and Camilla, try to catch up with it before the next Variety Show.

A sharp study of corporate greed for those who felt Michael Moore pulled too many punches.