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"Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room"|
110 minutes | Unrated
LIMITED: Friday, April 29, 2005
Directed by Alex Gibney
Featuring Kenneth Lay, Jeff Skilling, Andy Fastow, Gray Davis
'Enron' exposé rehashes the past with talking heads, but fails to site important red flags
The documentary "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" might have fallen in nicely with last year's pre-election onslaught of anti-right films -- except for the fact that it's not nearly as effective as "Fahrenheit 9/11," as thorough as "The Corporation," as immediate as "Control Room," or as persuasive as "Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry."
Certainly the Enron story is one that should be told and remembered, but Alex Gibney's film, based on the book by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, feels rushed, slight and ultimately inconclusive. It claims to find the humanity in the disgraced energy giant's rouge's gallery of corporate swindlers, but ultimately it hates them as much as anyone does.
We learn about Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, Andy Fastow and other villains, but since Gibney doesn't have direct access to them, they remain distant and sinister. The film recounts the rise of this strange business, whose initial job was to sell energy shares, and interviews many of its lower-rung traders as well as journalists and even a priest who has been counseling the laid-off workers.
The film describes how Enron manipulated the system to keep its stock prices high, even going so far as to mess with California's energy system, without any sense of moral compass. One high point is an interview with former California governor Gray Davis, who comes right out and says that his 2003 "recall" was a direct conspiratorial effort on the part of Enron.
Yet this exposé ignores the many technical and psychological details that might begin to explain how such a disaster could have come about. It also fails to warn us that it could very easily happen again.