So what happened here is that these crooks in suits — these morally depraved criminals — took everybody's money and gambled it every which way, knowing that no matter what happened, they'd get rich and everybody else would suffer.
And so the economy caved, and they're still rich, and 30 million people worldwide have lost everything — their homes, their jobs, their place in the community, their vision of the future, their identity.
We know this. We're all angry about it. But there's smart angry and stupid angry, and after seeing Inside Job, audiences will be smart angry. They'll know specifically how bankers, traders and economists brought on the recession. They'll know who did it and where to place the blame.
Director Charles Ferguson also made the best and most clear-headed documentary about the Iraq War (No End in Sight). But this documentary on the financial crisis is even more impressive journalism.
He had to master a highly technical story, then tell it to us in clear and concise terms. He had to become such an expert that he could go head-to-head with bankers, economics professors and politicians and know exactly when they were attempting to confuse. He had to be able to challenge them when they were trying to lie.
This took intellectual heft but also a personal toughness. Just think how hard this would be: You're welcomed into the office of some big shot who is surrounded by the trappings of his success. The person is dressed well, smiles a lot, and compliments you on your work. He has pictures of his wife and kids on his desk. He is genuinely doing you a favor by agreeing to be in your movie. And you have to sit there, friendly on the outside, but stone cold on the inside, willing to displace the genial atmosphere by demonstrating, to this man's face, that he's the moral equivalent of a gangster, or a fool, or that he has the social conscience of Marie Antoinette.
Ferguson doesn't do this once or twice, but over and over, which requires fierce and rigorous commitment. The result is a first-class documentary that's also a dedicated act of citizenship. Ferguson takes viewers through the whole chronology of the crisis: the gutting of regulations, the fleecing of Iceland, the collapse of financial monoliths. He also shows the culture of Wall Street corruption: the parties, the drugs and the prostitution rings.
The corruption extends even into academia. Banks will pay six-figure fees to economics professors at the most respected universities to write "analyses" of financial practices. Not surprisingly, the banks are evaluated as sound and safe until the day they collapse. Likewise, on Wall Street, the publications whose function is to rate financial products are paid by the institutions selling those products.
This would be a joke, if the consequences weren't so dire.