The economic collapse of 2008 is a global problem, but Charles Ferguson immerses his audience in a prologue that zeroes in on, of all places, Iceland. Here, we uncover how a once prosperous nation quickly descended into economic dissolution following a series of privatization practices and the consolidation of banking industries. Ferguson frames Iceland as the micro to the world’s macro, wherein Iceland’s accelerated process of economic downfall was a slower process in the United States, resulting in the fall of Goldman-Sachs and AIG.
Despite Ferguson’s exquisite frame working process, I found Inside Job to be purposefully un-cinematic – despite being visually astute, Ferguson has no intention of telling a traditional narrative. Instead, he lays out the facts – the many facts – as to the origins of the economic collapse of 2008, the people who played a part in it, the victims, and the need for reform. This approaches makes Inside Job more of an essay than film, which presents a few problems. One such issue is the amount of individuals on display – everyone from economics professors, to prime ministers, to individuals with high standing in the Wall Street community, to a prostitute were interviewed. The way Ferguson introduces each individual follows logic, but there’s a painfully slow process of getting the individual integrated with the world of finance that follows in line with Inside Job’s un-cinematic approach.
Primarily though, the scope of the film demands something far larger than its’ hour and forty-five minute runtime. I was reminded of Spike Lee’s excellent Hurricane Katrina documentary, When the Levees Broke – it and Inside Job have a similar narrative structure. But with Lee, he managed to extend each chapter of his film (the what, the why, the who, the solution) into hour long segments – such an approach would have been far more effective for Inside Job. It’s too condensed in its presentation to be effective. Perhaps it’s ill-advised to admit this, but despite having some experience in my studies on globalization and economics, I still found Ferguson’s explanations for credit-default swapping and other economic terms to fly over my head.
Being Ferguson’s second feature, he does have a sense of how to present as much information as possible. The emotional component to the film is particularly interesting too, as Ferguson actively engages his interviewees, never letting them weasel their way out of questions. There’s a growing sense of outrage to the film’s tone, and it’s a warranted one. But ultimately, its lack of adherence to a cinematic experience hinders my appreciation for Inside Job as a film. And the constant demand for explanation hinders the film’s final moments, where a silent moment of poignancy is undone with Matt Damon’s ultimately dull voiceover.