Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room Review

Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room Review
Cast: Peter Coyote (narrator), Jeff Skilling, Ken Lay, Andrew Fastow, Gray Davis, Peter Elkind, Bethany McLean, Kevin Phillips, Nancy Rapoport
Director: Alex Gibney
Screenplay: Alex Gibney
Genre: Documentary
Rated: M moderate coarse language, moderate sexual references, adult theme
Running Time: 109 Minutes

It's Just Business

Directed by Alex Gibney, this is the inside story of one of history's greatest business scandals, in which top executives of America's 7th largest company walked away with over one billion dollars while investors and employees lost everything. Based on the best-selling book 'The Smartest Guys in the Room' by Fortune reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind and featuring insider accounts and incendiary corporate audio and videotapes, Gibney reveals the almost unimaginable personal excesses of the Enron hierarchy and the utter moral vacuum that posed as corporate philosophy.

The film comes to a harrowing dénouement as we hear Enron traders' own voices as they wring hundreds of millions of dollars in profits out of the California energy crisis. As a result, we come to understand how the avarice of Enron's traders and their bosses had a shocking and profound domino effect that may shape the face of our economy for years to come.

My Verdict:
In 1985 in the United States, Ken Lay founded a natural gas pipeline company called Enron. After a meteoric rise to becoming one of that nation's largest companies, Enron plummeted into bankruptcy in 2001 with staggering job losses and a multi-million dollar financial debt that was almost beyond comprehension. 'Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room' is a story of Enron, it's rise and fall and the far-reaching implications of it's demise.

One of the overwhelming aspects of this companies collapse was how much money senior executives walked away with (often millions of dollars) and how many long-term blue-collar employees were left with nothing not even a superannuation payout.

The movie uses present day footage along with archival footage of (past) employees of Enron and includes interviews, taped phone conversations (mostly very damning), and some of the legal proceedings since the demise of the company of which some are still pending. The movie is broken into time-lined mini-chapters that follow the company along the path to its ruin with these chapters being interspersed with various other sources of information including a rather fun snippet from an episode of 'The Simpsons" that ridiculed the whole Enron affair and another involving a bizarre psychological experiment. Added to this is an assortment of music subtly and not so subtly used to emphasise different aspects.

Narrated by Peter Coyote, this often biting and stinging indictment on capitalism serves somewhat as a lesson for the future and homes in on Enron's own tagline, "Ask why?" as if to question how the executives at Enron managed to fool so many people for so long. The movie shows how during a Senate enquiry into the downfall of Enron, Jeff Skilling, a one-time CEO of Enron, was still claiming no knowledge of many events even when faced with overwhelming evidence to suggest otherwise.

At the very least, 'Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room' is an entertaining expose but it does also try to dig deep and determine whether the executives from Enron really were smart guys. One thing is for sure; it is hard not to be amazed at the magnitude of this debacle.

Rating : ***½

Christina Bruce