Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room Alex Gibney
Published Apr 01, 2005If you're a science fiction fan and need a fix before Episode III comes out, I heartily recommend this tell-all documentary about Enron business practice. Bizarre, fanciful, and with an epic grandeur, it will dazzle your ears and fill you with a sense of wonder, though don't be surprised when all of a sudden it turns into a horror movie. Perhaps the humble beginnings of founder Kenneth Lay will impress you, as he forms the company out of diverse natural gas firms; as might visionary wunderkind Jeffrey Skilling, as he helps shape it into a sort of energy stock market with paper assets larger than its real ones. But as they are consumed by the dark side of the force that is unfettered capitalism, they start making up financial statements, bring in major banks to sponsor dummy corporations, invent twisted schemes to hide their massive debts and generally sow the seeds of a spectacular flame-out.
What I expected to be a mildly interesting muckraker became an appalling essay in pathological exploitation and damaged Lear-like financial kings; those who know only of the great 401K evisceration will be surprised at the company's culture of hubris and self-absorption, and shocked at the revelations that it manufactured the California power outages in order to raise electricity prices. It fiercely blackens the eyes of the financial culture that made them possible and the people in high places that encouraged them in their delusions. If it lacks the analytical scope of a great documentary, it so ably demonstrates the dangers of deregulation that you can fill in the blanks yourself. A film to watch when your copy of The Corporation wears out that may surpass even that anti-corporate classic. (Alliance Atlantis)