"Inside Job," the new film on the underlying reasons (and the putative villains) behind the Great Recession, is sure (well, pretty sure) to gain an Oscar nod for best documentary. Which means that America needed to review it for you. Karen Smith, our editorial director, liked it, and...well, we'll let her tell you about it.
What becomes overwhelmingly clear in the film is that government (both the Bush and Obama administrations) has deep ties to the very people who occupied positions of power in the businesses at the center of the crisis. Some have made enormous sums playing both sides of the meltdown.
Henry Paulson is a prime example. Paulson led Goldman Sachs before President Bush appointed him Secretary of the Treasury. At that point Paulson was allowed to sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of his Goldman stock tax-free, and he later funneled billions to Goldman during the bailout. None of this is, technically, illegal. But it is mercenary in the extreme and grossly unfair, given that millions of Americans have lost their jobs and their homes as a result of the misdeeds of Wall Street, unscrupulous bankers and their peers in the real estate industry.
The roles of Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers, before and after the fall of Lehman, are also held up for inspection. Those cast in the roles of sage or analyst include (Americacontributor) Charles Morris, George Soros, Elliot Spitzer (no kidding!) and Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister, who adds a touch of class as well as internationalism to the mix.
“Inside Job” moves so briskly that some viewers, unfamiliar with the world of finance, may have difficulty taking it all in during a single viewing. The antidote may be to see it more than once, or wait for the DVD. But the film is not simply educational but entertaining, a suspenseful story with a beginning, middle and an end; it uses interesting camera work throughout and sometimes stunning visuals. Not a frame is amateurish.
Overall, the documentary’s effect goes far beyond the genre’s basic purpose, which is to nail things onto the public record, especially things that have eluded it thus far, and to put that record before the public. If not completely convincing on every point, the film makes a coherent argument that one must labor to dispute or refute.