Let’s get this out of the way: this is not a perfect movie. It has what you might call ‘formal’ flaws; inconsistencies in style, in tone and in perspective. It is meta in a way that you might find obnoxious. But I think it might be the single most important film made about the 2008 financial crisis.
It’s an entertaining but depressing, obnoxious yet sincerely outraged docudrama cum-black comedy about a bunch of guys who got insanely rich off everyone else’s misfortune. There have been many (excellent) documentaries about the crash. There have been chamber dramas. But has there been another film with such big name actors, that tries to be both entertaining and educational? No, there hasn’t. And, not only that, I feel like this film’s brash obnoxiousness of its style matches that of its subject – whether it’s the frauds or those who found them out but who were too selfish to alert anyone, these people are all assholes. And they are given a film that is funny, that is sad, that is full of righteous anger but also full of sometimes ineffective meta-diversions, and that is a jumble of different film styles, some of which (the jump cut segments, mostly) feel completely inappropriate to docudrama. Wrapped up in this chaotic film is a chaotic story of how greed ruined many peoples’ lives and made a few people very rich, as it always does. This is a Hollywood film, by the way.
I laughed. I shook my head. I got annoyed. I got angry. I worried about how this film deviated from convention while I admired it for the same reason. (Given that it is rather avant garde for a Hollywood movie, in the way that a Michael Bay film could be considered avant garde…). I have seen nothing like this movie before, certainly nothing like it that deals with a major financial crisis. I don’t know that I will ever see anything like it again. At least not for a while.
I don’t think it’s a masterpiece necessarily – there’s something about the style that is still bugging me – but I don’t think I will see another funny but righteous condemnation of American greed that is this accessible to the general public for a long time, and I think that’s a major accomplishment, and a unique accomplishment.