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With: Matt Damon (narrator), Eliot Spitzer, Barney Frank, Christine Lagarde, Lee Hsien-loong, Charles Morris
Written by: Charles Ferguson
Directed by: Charles Ferguson
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some drug and sex-related material
Running Time: 120
Date: 02/02/2010

Inside Job (2010)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Big Swindle

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though I can't claim it's a work of cinematic artistry, nor that I would ever want to see it again, Inside Job is an absolutely crucial work of journalism that every American needs to see. Even if you followed the financial crisis in the news, Charles Ferguson's documentary -- with the help of narrator Matt Damon -- manages to clarify the sneaky way a few powerful financial firms changed the way we do business so that a few people could get ludicrously, stinking rich while the rest of American increasingly sank into a lower-class mire.

It did not start a few years ago; it started in the 1980s when Reagan and his people slowly began deregulating banks so that they could start making riskier investments with higher returns. These investments grew more and more complex, becoming big packages filled with volatile loans, and yet marked as "safe." Companies could then actually bet on these loans to fail, and make even more money that way. The movie also talks about that mysterious thing known as a "derivative," which doesn't seem to actually exist, though it tends to make a ton of money for a very few people.

This new system is sheer insanity, but it has wormed its way beyond Wall Street and into the political machine, and not even President Obama can turn it over; the movie reveals that his financial advisors are made up of many of the same culprits responsible for the mess. Only former New York Attorney General-turned-governor Eliot Spitzer tried to do something about this, and he was publicly disgraced for his association with prostitutes. (Spitzer is interviewed here, but to learn more about his entire story, there's another new documentary, Client 9, currently playing.)

Ferguson -- who also directed the superb documentary on the Iraq War, No End in Sight -- concludes that the youngest generation of Americans are the first ever that are less prosperous than their parents, all thanks to this handful of rich, white guys. Inside Job suggests that all it would take is to restore the regulations that were once in place before 1980. Then, a handful of very wealthy, very powerful men would be less so, and the rest of us would be better off. But those few will fight, tooth and nail, to hang onto what they have. And so the film does not have a solution for this huge problem. It suggests that we should simply start fighting.

Note: The movie won an Oscar for Best Documentary.

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