Director: Charles Ferguson, Release date: 18 February
Inside Job, aided by the voice of Matt Damon, provides a rigorous assault on the complexities of the financial sector and aims at penetrating the crisis that broke in 2008. To some extent, the first half suffers from the turgid nature of this material, but should ultimately be lauded for patiently unravelling its mysteries for a lay audience.
The film is undeniably answering a demand for this kind of detail. Every day there is greater urgency among ordinary people to divine the connection between the tent cities that pop up in the worst hit areas of the US and the pristine boardrooms of financial institutions which, having been knee deep in the derivatives market and predatory lending, are now "even bigger and more powerful than before".
The extent to which this film rises to that urgency is uneven. The abundance of plain but intelligible graphics represents a high standard of establishing sources in the best traditions of investigative journalism. Equally the film succeeds in clearly tracing the roots of the crisis back to the aggressive deregulation perpetrated under the Reagan presidency without letting any of the preceding administrations off the hook. However, the singlemindedness with which the wrongdoings of specific figures are exposed by the film leaves it only a glance to spare for the ruin wrought by the crisis or its systemic origins.
Inside Job is exciting because it represents a popular engagement with the crisis - not as an unpredictable natural disaster, but as the product of misgovernment and greed. Groups in universities, schools and workplaces will undoubtedly use it as a means to promote discussion and activity while the individual viewer will treasure the probing of some of the most despicable stooges in economic punditry and financial "innovation" who falter, cringe and condemn themselves through the most basic questioning of their culpability. Inside Job is a timely reminder that the proper collective noun for a group of bankers is an "embarrassment".