One of the most talked about films from the Cannes Film Festival is the sophomore effort from Oscar nominee Charles Ferguson (who many pegged to win for his debut, NO END IN SIGHT). Set for release from Sony Pictures Classics later in the year, INSIDE JOB is garnering mostly rave reviews for its distillation of the current economic disaster.
Writing in the NY Times, Manohla Dargis says that, like NO END IN SIGHT, "Mr. Ferguson’s new movie tells a complex story exceedingly well and with a great deal of unalloyed anger":
"Financed by Sony Pictures Classics, which plans to release it in the fall, “Inside Job” lays out its essential argument, cogently and convincingly, that the 2008 meltdown was avoidable. As Matt Damon's voiceover guides us through the past decade, Mr. Ferguson mixes charts, television clips, still photos and newspaper headlines fluidly with star interviews (George Soros, Eliot Spitzer) and some choice words from less familiar faces, including a brothel madam and a therapist who each catered to Wall Street in the bubble years. The movie ends not long after Robert Gnaizda, formerly with the Greenlining Institute, a housing advocacy group, characterizes the Obama administration as “a Wall Street government,” a take Mr. Ferguson clearly endorses."
Variety's Rob Nelson calls INSIDE JOB "the definitive screen investigation of the global economic crisis" and evidence of "a new nonfiction master at work":
"Pic's historical overview of the past 30 years in Wall Street finance may contain little that's new, but its concise rendering here is suitably bone chilling. In Ferguson's account, the Reagan-era deregulation of banks precedes Bill Clinton's Financial Services Modernization Act (or "Citigroup Relief Act") of 1999; George W. Bush's drastic diminishing of the Securities and Exchange Commission; and, the filmmaker argues, President Obama's neglect of campaign promises to enact financial reform and pursue the criminal prosecution of investment bankers who knowingly bet against the unreliable securities they sold to homebuyers.
Heard off-camera, Ferguson fearlessly grills a host of government and private sector bigwigs on what they knew and when they knew it. Repeatedly, the stuttering evasions of those interviewed -- amid several requests for the director to stop filming -- speak as loudly as words."
Ann Hornaday at Washington Post concurs, although she admits its the latest in a line of documentaries to examine the issue:
"Charles Ferguson's sleek and purposely infuriating film lays out in methodical and stunning detail the factors that led to the financial collapse of 2008, threading viewers through a complicated skein of financial information with smooth assurance and clear-eyed analysis. (Ferguson, who got rich during the high-tech boom of the 1990s and is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, directed the Oscar-nominated 2007 film NO END IN SIGHT)
Although much of the terrain has been covered before, in such films as MAXED OUT, I.O.U.S.A. and Michael Moore's CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY, Ferguson's INSIDE JOB deserves to be considered an authoritative primer on the financial collapse, and it's the first examination of the crisis to implicate not only Wall Street executives, regulators and ratings agencies but also academics and business school administrators who were paid consultants of corporations while offering seemingly objective opinions about their economic soundness."
Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere calls the film "brilliant, very well organized, necessarily angry or at least confrontational...and great looking...easily the most handsome and lustrous I've seen at (Cannes) thus far":
"It delivers, in any event, a clear, razor-sharp portrait of a gang of blue-chip ogres and world-class motherfuckers (Summers, Paulson, Greenspan, Geitner, etc.), starting with their initial unleashing during the Reagan-era deregulating and moving through a litany of Bush 41, Clinton and Bush 43 sign-offs, conflict-of-interest corruptions, revolving-door deals and mutually beneficial handjobs."
Lee Marshall of Screen International suggests that current interest in the crisis might lead to some box office success:
"The non-fiction bestsellers lists prove that there’s currently a real appetite for laymen’s guides to the crisis that go beyond the bankers’ usual defence (presented here more than once by Ferguson’s hapless interviewee-victims) that the world of modern finance is extremely complex and we couldn’t possibly understand.
INSIDE JOB performs the task admirably in audiovisual form so that even financial dummies - like this reviewer - come out feeling enlightened and suitably angry."
But Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman feels like he's seen this all before:
"I have to say, though, that the majority of INSIDE JOB, as scrupulous and intelligent and fervent as it is, lacks that same force of revelation. When you watched NO END IN SIGHT, you felt that Ferguson had built an enormous bridge to our understanding of what went on in the run-up to, and execution of, the Iraq war. And part of the reason the movie was so powerful — so essential — was that our news organizations hadn’t done their job. The bridge of “understanding” that the media built was full of enormous, rusty holes, holes of misinformation and euphemism and reportorial apathy. The media built a bridge you couldn’t walk across; Ferguson filled in the holes, and it was a heroic act of documentary filmmaking.
With the financial crisis, the media has done a much better job. Yes, there are still many underreported aspects of the story, but even the most scathing moments of Inside Job, like the section in which Ferguson traces the many, many ties (far beyond Tim Geithner and Larry Summers) between President Obama’s economic and treasury appointments and the financial worlds these officials came from and still serve, is nothing I haven’t heard countless times from Paul Krugman or on cable news."
A number of critics noted INSIDE JOB's premiere coming on the heels of Oliver Stone's WALL STREET sequel. The Hollywood Reporter's Duane Byrge says Ferguson "exposes a level of greed that would make even Gordon Gekko cringe":
"INSIDE JOB presents a stunning array of interviews with a broad range of participants and commentators: hedge fund managers, business-school faculty, Justice Department officials, Federal Reserve chairmen, Congressmen and even a Wall Street "Madam." However, INSIDE JOB is no talking-heads drone. It's a lively, droll and acidic shakedown of the insiders who perpetrated this crisis...Most pointedly, INSIDE JOB clearly illuminates the collusion between governmental agencies, the giant financial service companies and the hordes of insiders who slopped at both sides of the trough. In short, INSIDE JOB exposes the conflicts of interest between brokerage, regulation and government."
Kenneth Turan profiles Ferguson in the LA Times:
"Because of his personal and professional background, his intelligence and his inclinations, Ferguson is especially well-suited to creating knockout documentaries that cogently and carefully lay out all the particulars of a significant situation. These are films that both enable you to understand complex circumstances and encourage your fury at what went wrong...
One of the things that makes Ferguson's documentaries stand out is the access he gets to key figures with specific knowledge of a situation. For INSIDE JOB, he secured interviews with dozens of articulate insiders, including International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, French Minister of Finance Christine Lagarde and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. "I know who they are, and they're not always obvious people, and they know who I am," he explains."
Anthony Kaufman interviews Ferguson for the Wall Street Journal, as does David Germain for the AP. Logan Hill at NY Mag's Vulture Blog wonders if Matt Damon's narration of the film (which calls out Obama for lack of action) means Hollywood has turned on the President.