Ferguson is an academic and IT entrepreneur in his fifties who only turned to filmmaking in the past decade. His film about the Iraq war, ‘No End In Sight’, was his first, and for this new hot potato he draws on a roll-call of 42 interviewees, from George Soros to a prostitute who often served high-rolling investment bankers. That’s a lot of boardrooms, bookcases and views over the Hudson, but Ferguson tempers these scenes with slick photography, some of it exterior, aerial shots of Manhattan or rural Iceland.
You’ll need these interludes to counter the rush of facts and figures. Ferguson take us from deregulation in Wall Street in the 1980s and ’90s to a series of later calamities that the government failed to act on, from the 2001 dot-com crash to the collapse of Bear Stearns. He argues that the government ignored the warnings of academics, many of whose peers were pro-deregulation and rewarded by other jobs. He laments, too, that Obama is still surrounded by the same advisers, such as Timothy Geithner, who shepherded Bush through the mess of 2008.
Ferguson’s style is to let his interviewees do the talking, with a sober voiceover from Matt Damon, but there’s a touch of Michael Moore in later scenes, when he insists on pinning down Glenn Hubbard, an economic adviser under Bush and Dean of the Columbia University Business School, on the cosy relationship between academia and government. ‘You have three more minutes,’ growls a man not used to being taken to task. ‘Give it your best shot.’