Charles Ferguson makes documentaries on subjects about which everyone is already an expert. Which is fine—it’s important to have someone coherently summarize the post-Iraq-invasion cockup, as Ferguson did in No End in Sight, or the Economic Catastrofuck, as he now does in Inside Job. It’s one thing to live through an appalling event, another to re-experience it in one tidy, rage-making block. And if you’re too lazy to pick up Michael Lewis’ The Big Short or any of the other dozens of tomes on the subject, this film will give you less hard information in less time.
Still, outrage is outrage, though Ferguson is not Michael Moore; he’s a calm storyteller who keeps his anger on simmer. After opening with a darkly comic parallel tale of how unchecked mega-capitalism destroyed idyllic Iceland, Ferguson dives into the lead-up to the 2008 apocalypse. He locates the true genesis around the savings-and-loan scandal of the Reagan '80s, then follows its spread through the deregulation craze that began during the Clinton ‘90s—but you already knew that. Some of the same cretins who helped cause it (including one depicted with far more warmth and decorum in The Social Network) wind up in the Obama White House, hired, presumably, to fix what they fucked—and if not, quit.
Aesthetically, Inside Job is less meat-and-potatoes than No End in Sight; it’s in cinemascope and even features the occasional “ironic” music cue. Ferguson is, interestingly, willing to be funny about this in a way he wasn’t with Iraq. He chats with both reliable sources like Eliot Spitzer, not-so-subtly used for his obvious disgrace factor, and some of the unrepentent asspuppets responsible. They sit there as Ferguson, who never appears on screen and usually hides behind the celebrities narrating (Matt Damon in this case), shoots them gotcha questions, then smugly watches as they stammer. I preferred Ferguson when he wasn’t playing Mike Wallace dress-up.