Reviews

Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room

4

This isn't a documentary. This is a John Grisham thriller. This is a PT Anderson crime drama. The players are all here: a slickster corporate bigshot, an evil mastermind, a wiseguy patsy and an intrepid young reporter who knows something's rotten.

But somehow, Enron is a documentary, a film as captivating as any Hollywood thriller this year - there's no beating the fascinating chill-factor of the real. Based on the book by reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, it uncovers how two Gordon Gekkos hatched the corporate crime of the century. In short, how preacher's son Kenneth Lay (or "Kenny Boy" as the Bush family affectionately called him) and Harvard heavy Jeff Skilling built America's seventh largest firm on billions of imaginary profits, buried the real losses in a maze of creative accountancy, then escaped rich while the company collapsed on penniless investors and employees.

How did they do it? As one observer puts it, Enron was "a house of cards built over a pit of gasoline." Unearthing fascinating insider accounts and staggering corporate audio- and video-recordings, the film reveals the personal excesses and moral voids of the Enron bigshots, whose corporate philosophy pours straight out of Skilling's favourite book The Selfish Gene. Oiling the action with gallows humour via a choice soundtrack and animated asides, director Alex Gibney hurdles the complex twists and meticulous details with some finesse. But it's the source material that remains mind-melting: Skilling training his disciples how to book fake profits - billions, remember - to keep the stock price flying; a frat-boy Enron trader grinning, "Burn, baby, burn!" as forest fires rip through California during an Enron-engineered energy crisis...

A scary, scandalous conspiracy story that shovels right to the heart of human greed and hubris, Enron tops both Fahrenheit 9/11 and The Corporation in a sorta-trilogy of modern corruption.

Verdict:

You could argue it's still agitprop, but this is the Titanic of capitalist disaster films. Shocking, gripping and unbelievable.

Film Details