Mixing intelligent but natural and almost casual talking heads with archive footage and a selection of illustrative graphics Ferguson charts the course of events from the deregulation of the financial services sector to the morally and ultimately financially bankrupt situation that the banks ended up in.
What could have played like a cold lecture (a study guide was actually produced to accompany the film in schools) is made easy to digest with just enough visual style, wit and effective pacing to keep the audience from drowning under the weight of facts and figures. In addition to the aforementioned graphics, Ferguson ensures that each area of discussion is set up with a brief explanation of any terms that may be alien. These translations of the language of finance are woven into the film though, ensuring the film never sags or loses steam. Far from sagging, Inside Job actually builds and builds throughout and it’s almost impossible to not be swept up, anger swelling as the film delves deeper and deeper.
Wisely though Ferguson ensures that this is not simply a ever increasing attack, a waving of fingers at ‘those evil bankers’. Instead he he crafts a measured piece, a deeply fascinating look at the actual issues and an exploration of the facts. Ferguson has the confidence, for the most part, to know that there is no need to pull at the audience’s heart strings or characterise the heroes and villains in broad strokes. Audiences are (or at least should be) intelligent enough to draw the links between what is done in the higher strata of finance and the effect it has on everyone else. The film does take a couple of, what could be considered, missteps into this territory though with a lady who was miss-sold her mortgage and a final shot that is so far on the nose and deliberately rousing that it actually renders the ending a little anti-climatic.
These are minor issues though and for almost the entirety of the running time Ferguson sticks to the facts and the experts who are best placed to comment, explain and interpret them. This is what makes Inside Job so invaluable. Interestingly Ferguson also questions the validity of what the ‘experts’ say and there is an incredibly enlightening section of the film that looks at the corruption within academic circles that has compromised financial academia and could well have played a large part in the economic collapse.
The dedication to speaking to experts in the appropriate fields and Ferguson’s probing interview style results in such a large quantity of detailed information and ensures that Inside Job is marked out from the fictional gloss and nonsense of something like Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps or the near vacuous disaster that was Capitalism: A Love Story.
In 2009 I wrote the following in a review (no longer online) of Capitalism: A Love Story and it is perhaps of interest in the way it contrasts with this review,
If one is investigating any given topic the logical approach is to find and interview the best possible experts to give a valid and useful insight into the issues involved. Instead of approaching economic, political, sociological, anthropological and behavioural experts and giving them the appropriate time to discuss the relevant details, Moore touches on a spectrum of experts but the majority of screen time is given to anecdotal stories from members of the public and the opinions of priests.
Moore’s approach is obviously founded in this method but the result is a film lacking any real substance or examination of the facts. Where Moore is lacking Ferguson excels and 17 months on it is pleasing to see a film that does such a far better job of covering a similar subject.
Inside Job is fascinating throughout and as we already begin to make the same mistakes that were made prior to the collapse and appoint the same people to positions of power who helped destroy the economy, this film is incredibly vital.
If after viewing the film you are enraged and anxious to act (you should be), the official site provides information (obviously with an American slant) in answer to the question of “What Can I Do?” and it is well worth checking out.
Inside Job is released in the UK on the 18th of February.