Charles Ferguson's follow-up to his Iraq War gut-twister No End in Sight is a documentary that inspires sickening ire—20 minutes into this lucid yet stupefying account of the 2008 global economic meltdown, my vision was clouded by the steam wafting from my ears. Inside Job makes a familiar tale cogent: Bankers pumped up the housing market by offering subprime mortgages like free tastes of heroin, then bundled these dubious loans as investments—the debt sold to eager and/or naive customers while they themselves were insured against loss with credit default swaps. Encouraging even more gambling, the SEC lifted restrictions on the banks so that they could play with ever-more borrowed money, and rating agencies colluded in the frenzy. You may remember that the party ended with a bang two years ago, when the reality police appeared at the frat-house door and the capitalist system went into cardiac arrest. Midway through Inside Job, Ferguson begins a search for accountability, mixing it up with unrepentant Big Board hustlers, confounded government regulators, and obfuscating academics. Small solace to watch the rogues squirm: No one, Ferguson points out, has yet been prosecuted for fraud. And although Inside Job attempts to exit on a positive note, the movie is most despairingly proof of the existence of a permanent government. The upcoming election is less likely to throw the rascals out than elect a new passel in.
Not interviewed, but blamed: Henry Paulson, Ben Bernanke, and Timothy Geithner (l-r).
Director Ferguson lobs angry questions from off-camera.