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Inside Job

The global financial crises that unfolded in 2007-08 drove millions of people into bankruptcy and the economy into recession. Directed by Charles Ferguson and narrated by Matt Damon, this film dissects the causes and implications of the downturn and analyses the role played by several key financial and political figures.

The beauty of Inside Job is that it makes the potentially daunting topic of the meltdown completely accessible to the masses. You don’t need to be a banker or an economist, nor have heard of credit default swaps and collateralised debt obligations, to follow it. The film clearly explains the developments with the aid of graphical illustrations and Damon’s narration, in an easy to digest manner. It is enjoyable to watch for both a finance layperson and a well-versed professional.

Inside Job demonstrates how the American financial sector brought the country to the brink through reckless risk taking, complex financial structures, and sheer greed. Banks provided mortgages to people who were unable to afford them in order to earn greater fees. Through financial engineering, these ‘toxic’ mortgages were then sliced, diced and bundled up into fancy packages and sold off to outside investors, who later lost out when house prices declined and borrowers defaulted. The repercussions were severe and spread throughout the economy. People lost their homes and investors and pension funds suffered heavy losses. The information you learn in this film will inspire both anger and outrage.

Amongst the people interviewed for Inside Job are billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros, NYU professor Nouriel Roubini who predicted the crisis back in 2006, US Representative Barney Frank, and Eliot Spitzer who sued the major investment banks while serving as the New York State Attorney General. We also meet Glenn Hubbard, Bush’s former economic advisor, who turns defensive and prickly in response to the interviewer’s pointed questions. Furthermore, the colourful insights of former Wall Street madam Kristin Davis are particularly intriguing. She claims that the Street’s corporate culture involves abundant sex and drugs for bankers and their top clients, with large sums of money spent on prostitutes and cocaine.

All in all, Inside Job is a well-argued and comprehensive critique of the factors leading to the financial crisis. The director has done a masterful job of explaining things in a simplified manner. It is an eye-opener and will leave you enthralled, fascinated and infuriated.

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