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Star - Mat Damon
Cert - PG 13
Run Time - 2 Hours
Genre - Documentary
Country - USA
Oscar - *One*
Inside Job is the Oscar winning and somewhat alarming documentary from 2010 that picks apart the banking collapse in great detail, a left wing polemic (voiced by Matt Damon) that is not about to apologise for its message that it was all the fault of the men in suits. That seems to be the consensus with the people and so why not, liberal Hollywood in full agreement, why it got nominated, one presumes, although an excellent film in its own right.
I, on the other hand, don't agree that it was 100% the banks fault and we are all absconding our responsibility by agreeing with Matt Damon and director Charles Ferguson here. We were all in on this greed and the quicker we accept that the quicker we can make up and let the bankers get us out of it. We can only buy a house if these guys can find us money that is six times our salary on the money markets and without banks we would live on what we earn, not an attractive thought. Most bankers are smarter than us with numbers and applied maths and we can't do what they do to make those billions in profits and to lend extravagantly and generate revenue for the Treasury so governments can pay for most of our social programs. We don't make anything more and the service industry and banking is our only earner now.
Up north some idiot thieves spent six months tunnelling under a railway embankment to a cash machine on the wall of BlockbusterVideo. The tunnel was 100ft long and four foot high and during the New Year bank holiday they finally made their move, but the machine all but empty, half a year's tunnelling bringing in just £4500. The tunnel was fully equipped with a generator, lights, ventilation and roof supports with the team of four working shifts. By my calculations their hourly rate wasn't great. My point is that the guys who work on the trading floor at the bank and fill the cash machines are not the unemployed 'Manc' morons trying to steel the money and making a loss doing it. The bankers are the guys who will make this country money twenty years from now when Chinese manufacturing pretty make everything else, counterfeit and contracted. The collapse was not some great scheme by the bankers to bust the world. That would be counter productive. It was a handshake between the government and the financial sector to make money and share the wealth by taking big risks to sustain the west affluent - over effluent - lifestyle. The one square mile City of London brings in £50 billion a year in tax through the City of London, on eight of our output.
The Inside Job...
The film begins in the beautiful and beguiling volcanic sweep of Iceland to Damon's soft narration; a sheltered and passive land you would think would be immune from the crisis. But it was the first real victim of the deregulation of the banking and financial system which allowed pretty much any bank on the planet to invest its customer's money in whatever they wanted to. The American banks had lobbied and lobbied to lift the 'Glass - Steagall Act' of 1933, set in place straight after the Great Depression to stop the banks crashing again. For fifty years the banks didn't bust because they were mostly retail banks investing our wages in their customers so we could have small loans and a mortgage, the investment banks left to take the risk with other people's money. But Bush backed off and in 1999 the act was lifted and just eight years later Lehman's collapsed, the busted bank doubling the US national debt overnight, the risk piled up because the checks and due diligence no longer in place in just one short decade.
Iceland had two small national banks, which were privatised when the Glass - Steagall Act went, which meant all other financial centres around the world dropped deregulation soon after to make their banks competitive. By 2005 their two banks had over-extended themselves so much that the country was in debt to the tune of 120 billion Euros, their tax haven tactic of offering higher interest rates meaning investors from all around the world wanted to put their money in Iceland, including 17 British local authorities, why the Terrorism Act had to be used by Gordon Brown to get some of that money back. The greed and nepotism that allowed the two Icelandic banks to get where they were was staggering and vulgar, the inversion of its country, fully laid bare here, the Icelandic politicians that deregulated the bank to make the billions the ones offered jobs on the board at the very same banks.
The history of the banks...
The film then maps out the big ups and down of the world banking system over the decades so we can identify how we got to the eventual crash. There was the Savings & Loan scandal of 1984 and the dotcom crash of the late 1990s, the multinational collapse of utility companies Enron and World Com ones we know all about. Some of the banker's tales of decadence and fraud from this period introduced in the film is the moment your blood pressure starts to raise so to be able to pop out of the thermometer by the end of the documentary.
By the new millennium the trades and deals were more complex, derivatives, credit default swaps and securitization the most confusing, the point, I suppose. Experts are paid for and rewarded for their knowledge, right? Problem was everyone was paid handsomely in commissions and bonuses to say the corrupt system was ok and legal and so the debt bubble kept inflating, too big to burst, the higher the risk to the trader the bigger the commission.
................Trader Frank Partnoy: "You're gonna make an extra $2 million a year, or $10 million a year for putting your financial institution at risk. Someone else pays the bill, you don't. Would you make that bet? Most people on Wall Street said, 'Sure, I'd make that bet.'............"
What seemed to be going on when it really started tog o wrong, according to the film, were house loans and credit cards and the like were being sold to just about everyone in America, purely because everyone along the chain made money from that, including the home owner, as long as the bubble didn't burst. Poor black Americans and Latinos, the so-called 'Sub Prime', the last people in America given the right to buy after 100 years of slavery, were sold mortgages most could never repay, some up to 120% deals on a $100,000 house, which meant $20 grand in the hand to spend on what they wanted, usually the fist mortgage payments. The realtors didn't care as they got 5% commission on the sale, the next one up the management scale getting a bonus for having successful selling realtors under their control, and so on and so on. By the time the now bad debt got to the top it was bundled into healthy debt and so know one had to look at it. Between 1999 and 2007 the loan market increased 20 fold. The banks held just 8% of the money owed. They all knew the toxic debt was there but convinced themselves they had buried it deep enough in complex trades that it would never be able to surface, like discarded radioactive products in lead coffins at the bottom of the Pacific, and if it did they would be long gone with the billions in commissions anyway. The rating agencies like Moody's were in on it and just said yep', that's safe, and took their commission? The traders, raters and bankers had no liability so why not gamble other people's money and make millions? There was now just no way to pay off the debt if the market crashed and the risk as high as the Manhattan skyscrapers about to topple into the concrete canyons and the Wall Street traders below. That's not the sort of thing governments and markets want to hear about and so they sang their favourite songs out loud and stuck their fingers in their ears like a kid when anyone tried to tell them to row back before its too late and carried on lending.
At the time in America as the catastrophe approached the Bush administration were actually firing the guys and girls there to regulate the financial houses, the 'Securities Exchange Commission', presumably feeling that 'boom and bust' was no more so why do we need to pay people checking to see if it's all safe? By the day of the crash there was just ONE employed guy on the SEC.
........Economist Andrew Sheng: "Why should a financial engineer be paid four times to 100 times more than a real engineer? A real engineer builds bridges. A financial engineer builds dreams. And, you know, when those dreams turn out to be nightmares, other people pay for it.......... "
Goldman Sachs and the likes were all but committing mass fraud driving up the debt yet they were quickly welcomed into the Obama administration to fix the crash. Sachs were allegedly selling junk stocks and trades to unsuspecting brokers and people in the full knowledge it would tank and then betting on exactly that on the markets, outrageous behaviour. Not surprisingly the crooks and the people who caused the problem didn't want to be in the film and the spivs were not just the suits. Even intellectuals working as professors at America's top universities were being paid huge bucks a year by the banks ad insurance companies to back up the duff claims that these complex trades were safe. Like I said, everyone was in on it.
Some say Jewish America caused the crash as it was the biggest Jewish American banks that got in trouble and deliberately over-extended themselves, their Whitehouse tentacles and connections and the fact they made sure they were too big to fail by buying other banks and financial institutions meaning they could go on forever behaving like this. But I don't think that's fair as the banks were egged on by the US government, who's politicians they bankroll to keep their office. Wall Street probably does run America but Bush and Obama need the banks more than the banks need them.
I will use the Harry Redknapp analogy to sum up our mentality towards the banks. The mostly female jury let him off for obvious tax evasion because they hate the taxman more than Spurs and enjoyed catching the eye of the ever-present and dutiful son in sexy Jamie Redknapp. They celebrated overpaid and under-rated Harry for not paying his share yet go home and rant at the bankers and Chief Execs for doing the same in their tax havens. We choose not to blame the banks or think about how they are getting the money together for us to buy our flat screen TVs and Bang Olufsen sound systems on the credit cards because we only have to pay back a 'tenner' a month and so we feel we don't deserve to carry any blame for anything anymore because we pay every month. 80% of Europe's whiplash claims are in Britain and 80% of those in the North West of England, the culture there to falsely claim compensation because they can get away with it but not caring that it puts up decent peoples annual insurance policies, money for nothing, the same deal. The banks offered the loans and we took them. If we didn't take them we would not be in this mess. It's as simple as that. And all those pensioners saying they didn't take the loans so it's not our fault, well you have gained from high interest on your savings because of the growth in the financial sector and so you got greedy too. Would impoverished Africans have bought that materialistic clutter if offered loans? No, because they aren't being offered it because they would spend it on sensible things to enrich their lives and not the banks.
Its great stuff guys and immaculately lays out the family tree of the banking collapse and who caused it and why. As I said it is a lefty polemic and so we are absconded from any responsibility in the narration. At times you will be screaming at the screen over some of the blatant corruption on show and how the bankers have got away with the winnings as millions of normal workers are canned around the world to pay for it but until we come up with an alternative to capitalism that keeps us from being a third world country it will be the same all over again.
It's a very well constructed documentary that keeps you hooked on what are somewhat complex themes and smartly done. It's not the Michael Moore style delivery with comedy and cartoons but a serious dissection of a worryingly fragile system that is close to collapse at any point over history. I suppose the films biggest quality is how it gets certain people in the film to own up to what they did whether they think they have or not. But what it doesn't do, like those St Pauls protestors, is offer any solutions, and until we stop being so materialistic then expect the sequel to Inside Job one day soon.
The Daily Telegraph - "Inside Job tackles the mess head-on with a kind of bitter pragmatism, reconstructing the system that failed and circling its weak spots"
Film4 - "A glossy, stylish documentary that'll make you really, really angry".
The Times - "As a documentary, this is a clear-eyed, steadily building prosecution against Wall Street. But, in the end, Ferguson's film is just a moot trial in which the defendants have already escaped scot-free".
The LA Times - "Inside Job offers a concise history in a documentary that speaks to everyone and knows exactly who's to blame".
The New Yorker -"Ferguson is more Oliver Stone than Michael Moore and is genuinely interested in getting answers, keeping himself out of the frame and only allowing his voice to intrude on the talking-head interviews when blatant spin needs to be challenged".
Imdb.com - 8.2/10.0 (20,456 votes)
Metacritic.com - 89% critics approval rating
Rottentomatos.com - 98% critics approval rating
Leonardo Maltin's Film Year Book 4/4