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INSIDE JOB Tries to Think 'Outside the Box' But Can't

  • Apr 6, 2011
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If you take Matt Damon's word for it (he's the narrator for the vastly overrated INSIDE JOB), then you'd quite possibly find your personal income regulated.  That's right: the actor who makes about $10 million dollars per picture (plus some back-end residual income, no doubt) may think you're making too much money, and he'd rather have the government step in to make sure that you're not making more than your fair share.  A guy who gets paid serious scratch for just showing up, mugging for the camera, and maybe uttering a few words he didn't even have the stones to write up on his own wants to have the federal government telling you how much you can make.  Seem fair?

Now, I don't wanna be too hard on Matt Damon because I'm sure he's a fine person.  He's had a pretty solid career, though as of late he's been plagued with some serious box office duds, and one could argue that INSIDE JOB smacks of the same 'lack of thoroughness' that Mr. Damon's displayed in his last couple of pictures.  In short, INSIDE JOB tries to make sense out of the worldwide financial crisis that "erupted" in 2008, and it does so -- in uncertain terms -- by leaping from one mildly misstated premise after another.  Dissecting the arguments could take as long as the film lasts, so I'll spare you some of the lesser points and try to concentrate on where I feel it all fell apart.

Don't get me wrong: I've no doubt -- based on reading I've done mostly into the housing crisis -- that there were some very bad people involved in this economic crisis.  It's no doubt that some of the regular folks were taken advantage of by predatory lendors and the like.  Within my own family, I can say from personal experience that a couple of family members were 'swindled' into signing things they probably shouldn't have signed without further review, and I know what financial burden they've had to endure specifically due to the nefarious sort of ilk director Charles Ferguson sets his sights on with this documentary ... but it's like blaming the plumber for a house poorly built.  Say you call in a plumber because, after living in your house for a few years, you've discovered a brand-new leak in the upstairs bath.  It's the plumber's job to fix the leak, not answer for the faulty construction that may've settled and thus CAUSED the leak, but Ferguson wants to blame the plumber.  The reality of the economic crisis -- and the myriad of factors that led to its global explosion -- is that there were, quite literally, tens of thousands of people who played some role -- minor or major -- in the creation of the environment where this kind of thing would happen; yet, INSIDE JOB, for some reason, only seems to want to focus on the financial industry.  Sure, some blame is tossed in the direction of politicians and/or their administrations, but methinks there was probably many more hours of research that needed to be undertaken and explored before settling on the easiest and most available villains.

Why do I say that?  Well, because Ferguson and his INSIDE JOB would have you believe that Eliot Spitzer is a role model as a political figure whose career was destroyed as a result of his pursuing legal cases against the finance industry.  Yes, that's the same Eliot Spitzer who resigned in disgrace and then, not long after, began presiding over his second most public failure, that of a "hard-hitting news program" on CNN.  Ferguson and INSIDE JOB would have you believe that Barney Frank -- the same Barney Frank who stood in the way of regulators trying to do their job with respect to the salvaging Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the housing crisis -- should be viewed as a source credible to speaking about the how's and why's of the housing collapse.  (Quite frankly, I believe that there's significant evidence out there to support that Frank was a key player in C-A-U-S-I-N-G a housing crisis, but that's an argument for another day and, arguably, another filmmaker.)  And, lastly, George Soros is pulling out of the closet and put up as one who saw this entire crisis unfolding?  Is that the same George Soros who publicly implied that "he was having a very good crisis" as he was profiting from the collapse of these banking firms?

No, INSIDE JOB is little more than a partial exploration of the causes and culture, but it doesn't go near enough into decoding the complexities that led to this fiscal undoing.  At best, it's superficial, if not meandering a bit from point-to-point.  When Ferguson doesn't have any evidence, he simply calls out the old 'flashcard' standby from the documentarian's playbook: he puts up the black backdrop with the text to the effect of "So-and-so refused to be interviewed for this film."  I find it a bit discomforting to have to point out that "the absence of proof" does not justify guilt just as much as it doesn't imply innocense, but much of INSIDE JOB appears little more than a "hack job" to this viewer.  In fact, most folks interviewed do not come off looking well at all; so can you blame someone for NOT wanting to appear?

That said, there's a significant portion of INSIDE JOB that isn't revelatory at all.  Politics and finance breed strange bedfellows, and pulling on one thread has never destroyed an entire tapestry simultaneously regardless of how hard one pulls on it.  Academics are indicted in the commentary ("nothing new"); government regulators are exposed as being on the take ("nothing to see here, folks"); and even the wives of politicians are called into suspicions ("move along, move along").  However, Ferguson apparently believes that hitting the same nail with the same hammer will cause a different result despite the fact that the nail long ago sank fully into the board.  What is new -- the implications of how the new world economy is tied so closely together that a 3% failure in assets can bring down a country, much less a company -- is given short shrift when perhaps the film could've been seen less politically motivated and more of a true 'public service' for all of humanity.  After all, isn't the one of the expressed purposed behind documentaries?  Shouldn't such an expose be for the benefit of all instead of for the benefit of one political persuasion?

INSIDE JOB is a respectable foundation, but it's hardly an 'inside job.'  It's tone is much more in line with "Inside Edition" or "A Current Affair" as it tries to implicate only those the filmmaker believes to be the nasty culprit, not anyone he can substantively prove wrong.  Thus, it teeters closely to being its own 'house of cards' or, at least, almost as guilty as those it serves to indict.

As an FYI to Matt Damon and his followers, I'd offer up the following observation.  One of the Mattster's last films cost the studio an estimated $100 million in production costs, including Matt's hefty salary.  Also, you can add to that figure a probably $20 million dollars in advertising and promotion costs.  So, an estimated $120 million dollars went into that production ... and the film grossed a dead weight $35 million.  Now, if we follow the logic presented in INSIDE JOB, might it be appropriate for we -- the audience -- to demand a government panel investigate all those folks involved in the creation of the film GREEN ZONE -- including all actors, all crew, all studio personnel, the director, etc. -- so that we can demand our money back?  It's a pure loss on investment, so ought not the investors be compensated for such a tragedy?  Might it be appropriate for the studio to demand Matt's salary back?  I'd say, "Certainly not," because risk is an essential component of the filmmaking process.  It has been from the start; it continues to be today; and it'll always be so in the future.
INSIDE JOB Tries to Think 'Outside the Box' But Can't

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April 06, 2011
A very thought-provoking write up. Amazing balance of film analysis and how the movie felt on your own observations (very personal too). Nice work! I am ssoo featuring this one.
More Inside Job reviews
review by . April 04, 2011
The taxpayers have been dismissed!
It is seldom that Wall Street (if ever) provided us with such an intricate and out of the world financial engineering that movies and after movies could now be made to commensurate the 2008 financial catastrophe. No one fully understood the plots behind the many stories and the realities that all the very top people had been saying. What we all in the world understand is that we have become poorer as a whole and as a result of it (with the exception of some insiders). True or false? You decide!   …
review by . May 31, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
12A - 120mins - Documentary/Crime - 18th February 2011      The financial crisis of 2008 hit everyone hard of that there is no doubt and Inside Job seeks to understand the causes of this from how the crisis came about to who was responsible and what is being done to try and bring those people to justice. The overawing feeling whilst watching this movie is one of disgust, frustration and anger at the people who instigated the downfall of so many companies and who led to the destruction …
Quick Tip by . February 26, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
It's a documentary format kind of film and you'd have to be very interested in the 2008 financial meltdown to enjoy this film. Or, if you are working or had worked in the financial industry, then this will definitely interest you. The film may have addressed what went wrong, but it has not quite demonstrate how the financial world has changed since then. Those working for Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, etc, etc, are still making huge bonuses after their irresponsible practices …
About the reviewer
Ed ()
What? You don't know enough about me from the picture? Get a clue! I'm a graduate from the School of Hard Knocks! You can find me around the web as "Trekscribbler" or "Manchops".   … more
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About this movie


From Academy Award® nominated filmmaker, Charles Ferguson (“No End In Sight”), comes INSIDE JOB, the first film to expose the shocking truth behind the economic crisis of 2008. The global financial meltdown, at a cost of over $20 trillion, resulted in millions of people losing their homes and jobs. Through extensive research and interviews with major financial insiders, politicians and journalists, INSIDE JOB traces the rise of a rogue industry and unveils the corrosive relationships which have corrupted politics, regulation and academia. Narrated by Academy Award® winner Matt Damon, INSIDE JOB was made on location in the United States, Iceland, England, France, Singapore, and China.
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Director: Charles Ferguson
Genre: Documentary
Release Date: October 8th, 2010
MPAA Rating: PG-13
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