You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Inside Job

Charles Ferguson's film is the definitive screen investigation of the global economic crisis.

Narrator: Matt Damon.

A “how it happened” documentary to rank alongside his “No End in Sight,” Charles Ferguson’s sophomore film “Inside Job” is the definitive screen investigation of the global economic crisis, providing hard evidence of flagrant amorality — and of a new nonfiction master at work. Boasting more villains than a dozen blockbusters, it points an incriminating finger at not only financial services execs who got filthy rich on working people’s pain (and who remain in power) but also government officials and biz-school toppers irrefutably revealed to be in Wall Streeters’ pockets. Ironically, Sony Pictures Classics’ anti-capitalist commodity could well become a moneymaker.

As in his searing Iraq War study of 2007, “No End in Sight,” Ferguson aims to arm auds with information and infuriate them into action, beginning with the assertion, calmly voiced by narrator Matt Damon, that the ongoing crisis was “not an accident.” As a result, those among the top 1% of global wealth holders aren’t likely to be among the movie’s major supporters.

Supplemented by well-placed archival footage and photos (plus graphs and charts), a highly distinguished crew of talking heads testifies to investment bankers’ premeditated assault on the middle and lower classes through a system of predatory lending. The vast dichotomy between images of Hamptons mansions and Floridian tent cities vividly illustrates Ferguson’s point that the rich have played while the poor have paid. (Docu also devotes screen time to economic victims in China, Singapore and, at the topical start of the pic, Iceland.)

Pic’s historical overview of the past 30 years in Wall Street finance may contain little that’s new, but its concise rendering here is suitably bone chilling. In Ferguson’s account, the Reagan-era deregulation of banks precedes Bill Clinton’s Financial Services Modernization Act (or “Citigroup Relief Act”) of 1999; George W. Bush’s drastic diminishing of the Securities and Exchange Commission; and, the filmmaker argues, President Obama’s neglect of campaign promises to enact financial reform and pursue the criminal prosecution of investment bankers who knowingly bet against the unreliable securities they sold to homebuyers.

Heard off-camera, Ferguson fearlessly grills a host of government and private sector bigwigs on what they knew and when they knew it. Repeatedly, the stuttering evasions of those interviewed — amid several requests for the director to stop filming — speak as loudly as words.

Naturally, the film includes the names of many, some of them bank-paid lobbyists opposed to economic reform, who declined to grant interviews. Still, several economics department academics appear on camera struggling to maintain that their dual positions at universities and on the boards of investment banking firms do not represent conflicts of interest. Columbia Business School prof Frederic Mishkin, formerly on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, unconvincingly asserts that he left his post in August of 2008 (just weeks before the Wall Street crash) in order to work on revising an old textbook.

The docu’s other darkly humorous comments, if not the most incriminating, come from “Wall Street madam” Kristin Davis, who acknowledges the wealth of major investment bankers in her brothel-going clientele, and therapist Jonathan Alpert, who notes his executive clients’ “blatant disregard for the consequences of their actions.”

A little comic relief goes a long way toward mediating Ferguson’s otherwise relentless approach. Still, such is the grim tone of the film — as apocalyptic in its way as “No End in Sight” — that blocks of New York City skyscrapers, seen from above in frequent helicopter shots, begin to look like rows of dominoes. The pic’s musical selections, from Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time” to MGMT’s “Congratulations,” somehow manage to keep one’s toes tapping, even as one’s fist remains firmly clenched.

Popular on Variety

Inside Job

Production: A Sony Pictures Classics (worldwide) release of a Representational Pictures production, in association with Screen Pass Pictures. Produced by Charles Ferguson, Audrey Marrs. Executive producers, Jeffrey Lurie, Christina Weiss Lurie. Directed, written by Charles Ferguson.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Kalyanee Mam, Svetlana Cvetko; editors, Chad Beck, Adam Bolt; music, Alex Heffes; music supervisor, Susan Jacobs; sound (Dolby/DTS/SDDS), David Hocs, Michael Jones, David Mendez; sound designers, Abigail Savage, Rich Bologna; re-recording mixer, Tom Efinger; associate producers, Kalyanee Mam, Anna Moot-Levin. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (Special Screenings), May 15, 2010. Running time: 108 MIN.

Cast: Narrator: Matt Damon.With: Jonathan Alpert, Kristin Davis, Martin Feldstein, Barney Frank, Robert Gnaizda, Eric Halperin, Glenn Hubbard, Christine Lagarde, Andrew Lo, Lee Hsien Loong, Frederic Mishkin, Raghuram Rajan, Allan Sloan, George Soros, Eliot Spitzer, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Gillian Tett, Gylfi Zoega.

More Scene

  • Gaby Hoffmann, Albert Cheng, Alexandra Billings,

    'Transparent' Team Reflects on Series Finale Without Jeffrey Tambor

    Friday night’s premiere of the series finale of “Transparent” at L.A. Live’s Regal theater felt like a family reunion for the Pfefferman clan. Matriarch Judith Light embraced each one of her TV children (Gaby Hoffman, Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass) and guest stars from previous seasons (Cherry Jones, Melora Hardin, Bradley Whitford) who also turned [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8

    'Game of Thrones,' 'Avengers' Win Big at 45th Annual Saturn Awards

    As Jamie Lee Curtis picked up her first trophy ever at the 45th Annual Saturn Awards Friday night, she had a good luck charm on her arm: former manager Chuck Binder, whom she said was the reason she became an actor. “I was in college and had no thought of being an actor,” Curtis told [...]

  • Pom Klementieff poses at the launch

    Marvel Cinematic Universe Star Pom Klementieff Talks Disney-Fox Merger, X-Men Dreams

    Pom Klementieff may have entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe playing Mantis in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” followed by appearances in the last two “Avengers” movies, but that wasn’t her original superhero plan. “My dream was to be in X-Men,” she told Variety on Thursday at the Chanel dinner for its new fragrance Gabrielle [...]

  • Gwyneth Paltrow

    Gwyneth Paltrow to Be Honored at amfAR Gala Los Angeles

    Gwyneth Paltrow and art dealer Larry Gagosian are set to be honored at the 2019 amfAR Gala Los Angeles. The American Foundation for AIDS Research announced that the two honorees will receive the Award of Courage for their commitment in the fight against HIV and AIDS as well as for their other humanitarian efforts. Christina [...]

  • David Mandel Sam Richardson

    'The Handmaid's Tale,' 'Veep,' 'When They See Us' Writers Honored at Emmy Nominees Reception

    Ava DuVernay (“When They See Us”), David Mandel (“Veep”) and Bruce Miller and Kira Snyder (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) were among those honored at the Television Academy’s Emmy nominees writers reception on Tuesday night in North Hollywood. There, ceremony hosts, “Escape at Dannemora” star Eric Lange and “Veep’s” Sam Richardson, kept the show moving by tossing in [...]

  • Jon Stewart and Bruce Springsteen

    Bruce Springsteen, Jon Stewart Return for 13th Annual Stand Up for Heroes

    Bruce Springsteen, Jon Stewart, John Oliver and Hasan Minhaj will again Stand Up for Heroes. Comedian Ronny Chieng will join the multi-talented group on stage for a night of music and comedy in honor of military veterans and their families at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 4. The 13th annual event [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content