Inside Job

Charles Ferguson takes us on a tour of financial collapse from Iceland to Wall Street.

Charles Ferguson zooms in on Iceland. at the beginning of his Oscar-winning documentary about the global financial crisis, he focuses on the quiet island nation that, in 2000, began to undertake “one of the purest experiments in financial deregulation ever conducted,” as the gentle narration of Matt Damon informs us. the results were devastating — the nation’s economy imploded, and many Icelanders lost everything.

That’s the first note in what becomes an incessant theme in the film. at one point, a nameless executive is even quoted as blurting out, in a private meeting, “Don’t deregulate us! we’re too greedy!” this is well-trod documentary territory (Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story comes to mind), but Ferguson, who previously directed the well-regarded Iraq war exposé No End In Sight, employs nimbler tactics than his peers. he uses charts and graphics to explain intricate concepts (though not to an obnoxious degree) and only resorts to tired techniques like stock footage and time-lapse photography when they complement the facts presented. amid interviews with players, spectators, and usual suspects, he interweaves cards naming notable figures who declined to be interviewed. Ferguson remains off-screen, generally allowing his subjects to state their cases, with the occasional pointed inquiry. (Frederic Mishkin, former governor of the Federal reserve, is reduced to a stuttering mess during a series of tense exchanges.)

While its conclusions are anticlimactic, Inside Job is a concise summary of a complex global crisis. it is no small feat to condense such a wealth of debatable economic facts and figures into a palatable format. But in doing so, the film reveals that the financial sector, the government, and economic academia are entangled in such a way that the individuals and institutions influencing policy are simultaneously benefiting from it. still, despite the bleak circumstances, Ferguson beats the drum for reform. (Rated PG-13)

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