Film: 'Inside Job'; Director: Charles Ferguson; Voiceover: Matt Damon; Rating: ****
It was literally the greatest heist of all times, the type that erstwhile conquerors of the world would wonder how someone could do it without killing millions in the process. And it is a heist that has largely gone unpunished.
On Sep 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy, beginning the collapse of the financial system globally. Many more companies underwent the same fate causing literally millions to lose their life savings and millions more, their jobs. The answer to the question as to who caused it, and how, has largely remained fragmentary... Until now.
'Inside Job' gives the much-needed and extensive full picture.
'Inside Job' is eerie, and surreal in its reality. Narrated by Matt Damon, it seems like the story of the wild wild west, and how a few greedy cowboys managed to do what was once the purview of marauding conquerors - loot, plunder and ravage through the financial world triggering a kind of collapse the world has not seen since the depression of the 1930s.
That great depression was largely limited to the US. In a globalised world, this one threatened to collapse the entire law and order and democracy of the world, had it not been stemmed.
The film weaves together the story of the collapse by interviewing the key people who warned against this impending doom beforehand and thus suffered for it from a world keen on growth and development, but not the truth. Obviously, the ones most responsible refused to be interviewed. But the recordings at a congressional hearing throw some startling light about the quality of people on whom the fate of the financial system rests.
The film beautifully refuses to be just confined to numbers, as it throws in a psychiatrist and a prostitute, both of whom have 'serviced' the wall-street gangs and thus gives a mental evaluation of the men who handle our money, and also what they do with it.
Yet the film does get a little complex in its financial jargon, but this is limited.
From the Indian perspective, this is perhaps the most important American film in decades because the Indian economy, since liberalization in the early 1990s, has begun following the American model, often blindly. India's new generation of businessmen pride themselves as being like their American counterparts.
And just like in the US, the Indian business and financial world is also pressing for lesser regulations in the name of growth. The film clearly shows the ill-effects of such blind deregulation.
The distorted nature of our society also becomes evident from the fact that the country that houses the maximum number of people in its prisons have not found the need to incarcerate those who caused this financial meltdown. They are not only left free, but are in a position of power where they can do greater and wider damage. Sounds familiar?
It's like Thomas Jefferson who after drafting the American constitution was asked by an old woman about the kind of government they have given her. Jefferson said: 'A republic, if you can keep it.'
The financial world is the backbone of a republic. Hence the lesson from this depression, and the film, is clear - the financial world needs its checks and balances.