Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Film Review | Inside Job (2010)

Some documentaries tell stories that deserve to be told, even if they're stories that you didn't know existed before you watched. Other documentaries tell stories that the filmmaker wants to tell; to expose a truth, right a wrong or just tell you about something they want to make a film about. And then there are rare documentaries like Inside Job, which tell stories that define a moment in history, that absolutely have to be told and that will be told in one way or another whether people want to hear them or not. They're often the hardest stories to tell, and so you always hope that when they are told, the person telling them does so in the right way. Thankfully, in making Inside Job, director Charles Ferguson manages just that in expert fashion.

Focusing on the 2008 financial crisis, Ferguson's film holds a wealth (pun partially intended) of potential before it even begins. This is history. In the future, economics professors will teach whole semesters on this event - in fact they probably already are. Indeed, there was every chance that Inside Job would turn out like a motion picture economics lecture, squandering its potential through financial jargon and stuffy delivery. Thankfully, Ferguson manages to avoid this pitfall almost entirely throughout due to a series of smart choices.

Having Matt Damon on board as narrator is the first thing the director does right. Damon's familiar tones, nonthreatening yet with the necessary gravitas to make sure this never feels flimsy or exploitative, act as a perfect guide through the duration of the film. Ferguson's script and style toe a fine line superbly, neither patronising the viewer nor leaving them behind in a whirlwind of intricate economics. Complex ideas are broken down in a way that makes them not only understandable, but also really quite interesting even if you haven't got a degree in economics. Ferguson knows that his subject matter is so incredibly important that it must maintain this fine balance of simultaneously being informative and compelling, and manages it admirably for the vast majority of his film. Only towards the very end does Ferguson falter slightly, as the section focusing on economic academia noticeably loses some of the vitality of what has come before, but the director quickly regains his stride for a strong and poignant finish.

Ferguson also never holds back in his choice of interviewees. He doesn't just settle for underlings who saw what was happening from below and deliver hearsay and happenstance accounts. He jumps unafraid straight into the lion's den and comes back with a fistful of feline tails. It's a brave decision which pays dividends. Ferguson doesn't get everyone he wants, but those he does get on camera, from influential members of the Bush administration to the Prime Minister of Singapore, are about as heavyweight as you can get. Ferguson also times his reveals of who refused to take part impeccably, allowing their absence to speak volumes.

We the audience should be incredibly grateful that Ferguson grabbed hold of this period of history and documented it on film before anyone else, as Inside Job is informative, unrelenting and irresistable both in content and execution. Had someone like Michael Moore made this documentary, the audience would come away twice as angry but none the wiser as to why. Ferguson explains why we should be angry, but never allows Inside Job to be a call to arms. This is refined documentary making, factually rich and rhetorically superb whilst also aesthetically beautiful at points - Ferguson's shots of countries such as Iceland and Japan are truly artistic, something you might not expect in a film about financial crisis. Inside Job ends up not only being one of the most important documentaries of recent times, but thankfully also one of the very best.


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