Inside Job: A Well-Written Documentary

Below is a review of the documentary, Inside Job.  If, however, you’re looking for the Inside Job transcript / screenplay, check out the post: Inside Job – Screenplay and Info

Looking for a well-written, non-partisan documentary about the finance industry?

No?  Well, I didn’t think I was either until I was dragged to the Landmark on Friday to check out Inside Job, the fantastic new documentary from Charles Ferguson.

And I don’t use that word (“fantastic”) lightly.

I wasn’t actually “dragged” to the theater, as Ferguson’s prior work No End in Sight is my favorite documentary on the Iraq war.  “Cajoled” might be a better word. Or even, “talked into with relative ease.”

Inside Job takes a hard look at the financial collapse of 2008, and takes economists, Democrats, Republicans and especially the Wall Street players to town.  After leaving it you’ll not only feel better informed, but emotionally connected to the issue.

In other words, it’ll make you mad.  But let’s talk about writing for a minute.  How was it so effective?

Sometimes it’s difficult to spot the power of writing in documentaries.  I’ll explore this more in future posts, but let’s get the conversation started: it’s not just about narration.

Because while Inside Job has well-written narration (read by Matt Damon), the power of the documentary comes from other places.

Part of it stems from Ferguson’s questions.  He’s careful not to be too abrasive…at first.  He knows how to ask a controversial question as polite as anyone. (So much so, that former economic advisers often don’t see the heat coming before it’s too late.)  Instead of letting the interviewee off the hook, Ferguson keeps going, pressing ahead with sharp, cutting, yet polite questions, that make some of these guys squirm in the most subtle, off-hand ways, caught in close-ups by the camera.

It’s beautiful stuff.  But a little more about the writing.

The writing also emerges through the structure of the piece.  The pacing.  The build.  The integration of written material with interviews, photos, and stock footage.  An argument might be made that editing – especially in a documentary of this sort – can be classified as a type of writing.  I wouldn’t argue with that.  The two definitely go hand in hand, and in this case produce excellent results.


See Inside Job already.  Especially if you’re like me and wonder, “Where DID our tax money go in that bailout?”

It’s also not a bad idea to support independent films and documentaries.  You just might end up writing one some day.

The trailer is below.  Enjoy!


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