A personal favorite since my first viewing, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is perhaps one of THE most intriguing documentaries to have ever been made about American capitalism. As a fan of the documentary medium, first drawn in by the appallingly biased and very entertaining works of Michael Moore, I often shop around for insightful documentaries to watch; particularly if the subject has anything to do with American politics. And whilst Enron is not a film that necessarily revolves around the corruption of a certain presidential administration (that shall remain unnamed), it most certainly critiques another form of ideology: Greed.
Enron is a documentary that exposes every single facet of the scandal that occurred in 2001 along with the entire history of the company, culminating in one of the biggest and most devastating chapter 11’s in the modern American age. All the key players, employees, whistle-blowers, politicians and victims have their day in court on camera whilst the filmmakers utilize their skills to make the documentary as entertaining and energetic as possible. Director Alex Gibney has managed to transform an extraordinarily large scale operation that is the current American economic system and critique it beautifully within the confines of the Enron scandal. His use of editing and selection of people interviewed does not paint the defunct company in a good light but at no moment do we as a viewer ever question the agenda of the filmmaker. It is unnecessary for Gibney to attempt to prove the guilt of the handful involved since their convictions are publicly known and well documented in the eyes of the international media. One member of the company even committed suicide shortly after Enron’s downfall which he helped cause.
His interviews, as mentioned before, feature nearly all the key players you could want for a documentary, typically unsurprising however is that the head honcho’s are lacking in appearance but luckily for us there are more than enough experts, witnesses, and even close friends to help expose and (more importantly) explain their guilt. What starts off in a similar vein as the documentary “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Living” (also 2005), quickly becomes a very mature and expertly critical work. Gibney does not resort to humor or manipulative editing to prove a point, he already has Joe public on his side. We are shown the childhood history of the top dogs at Enron before the company was founded, as well as how the seed of their illegal activities was planted in the earlier days of its sprouting infrastructure. In fact you as a viewer may actually perhaps be almost drawn to sympathy for certain individuals who, although guilty, at times can appear as victims of their own ambitions and dreams.
For me Enron is a must-see documentary for anyone interested in scandal of the highest order. Thousands of people lost their savings and jobs due to only a handful of greedy individuals, a story that everyone would become only all too familiar with just three years after the film’s release. Perhaps Gibney predicted future events and wanted to get ahead of the curve before Charles Ferguson made his incredible documentary “Inside Job” (another must watch for anyone, no matter whether you’re interested in scandal or not). Enron is a taut, well-paced and very well structured documentary. It covers all of its bases (and then some) but also manages to expose the human side to the tale, the side of both parties, the people and the executives, and is told to us in a quasi-neutral light, but one will never get the impression that Gibney is on a personal crusade. He is just a man who wanted to tell all the facts. Who knew that those facts would prove to be so very juicy to hear about….but maybe that also has something to do with Peter Coyote’s luscious narration as well… who knows?