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5 reviews, 13 user ratings

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Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
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by Chris Parry

"A doco that will make you want to beat a guy with a lead pipe."
5 stars

If the goal of a documentary is to get a reaction out of the audience, then Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room should have won the big prize at Sundance and everywhere else besides. The Enron story is one that is known by most in small pieces, but when you see all the information in one place, put together in a way that covers every single part of the episode in an unbiased, no holds barred, totally professional fashion, ordinarily calm and peaceful people begin booing Bush family members and Enron executives on screen with a passion usually reserved for lynch mobs and Philadelphia sporting fans at Christmas time.

Enron was a company built to implode, but before mathematics caught up with the company’s bottom line, it became one of the star corporations of the new millennium. The biggest donors to the Bush Presidential campaign, a favor that was returned a thousandfold by Bush’s VP whenever electricity policy needed review, Enron made a big wad of cash basically juggling books, lying about their profits, and by using a weird kind of accounting that allowed them to count future profits as current assets. The heinous things the company got up to during its short burn-bright phase are the kind of nasty goings on that destroy the lives of thousands all so a handful of goons could take home more money than they could ever spend.

Enron convinced a Californian Republican Governor to deregulate the electricity industry out there, shortly before Democratic Governor Gray Davis took over, and promptly turned off the power every second day so they could justify a tenfold price increase. And just in case you’re still under some sort of mistaken impression that there was a ‘shortage’ of power, The Smartest Guys in the Room features tape recorded conversations from Enron Electricity traders where they laugh and joke that they’re stealing millions from “Grandma Millie.”

I could go on and on about the details of the Enron case, but they’re better told by the film itself than I could ever relay from memory, especially since this film is the quintessential study on the situation at hand. Quite honestly, I don’t think anyone will ever explain this monumental criminal enterprise more clearly, a ponzi scheme that required assistance and blessings from the most powerful men in the American government, and ended up blowing through tens of billions of dollars for no good reason other than some upper level geek with troubles getting it up felt like a big man about town being able to point to all his Forbes covers.

Though the top rungs at Enron have been indicted and face trial some time this year, you can bet that most of the company’s middle management can feel lucky they’re not up there with their bosses in handcuffs. This tale of regimented fraud is told in no uncertain terms, and referenced alongside a 1960’s scientific study that proved most people will break any law if someone in a position of authority tells them it’s fine to do so, which gives all the more gravitas to what actually happened.

How could Arthur Andersen’s, one of the world’s most respected accounting firms, allow themselves to be sullied by lying about Enron’s books until it was too late? Who was blowing who to keep the biggest banks in the world handing money over to Enron while telling the world that everything was a-okay? And just how did those electricity traders sleep at night, knowing they were deliberately turning off the power to millions of innocent people, just to earn a little more profit the next day?

This is a documentary that not only sold out a massive theater at SXSW, but it also incited a standing ovation AND an ongoing cattlecall of boos, hisses and visible disgust as regular people who work hard for a living, yell and curse at the screen after learning how a privileged few nearly bankrupted the fifth largest economy in the world, just so they could play ‘pretend profit’ with their buddies for a few months longer. You have to credit a documentarian who can tell a story so well that it pushes his audience to a violent reaction, but that’s exactly what this filmmaker did, and it must be said that his documentary is flawless.

Corporations like Enron are scum, and those that spend their lives playing amongst that scum, seeking nothing more than a higher level of scum, so they can push others around underneath them, deserve nothing short of the heinous punishment they ended up handing out to the lowest rungs of the Enron employee ladder – job loss, financial destitution and a forever damaged life. Hopefully, with a documentary this good putting it all into perspective, justice can be served and a future Enron prevented. See it, first chance you get.

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originally posted: 03/14/05 03:46:49
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2005 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sydney Film Festival For more in the 2005 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/28/09 the dork knight Very effective and digging deep into the psyche of the suits in charge. Greatest con ever? 5 stars
3/01/08 mormor613 should be required viewing in ethics, business courses 4 stars
2/13/07 johnnyfog A little too dramatized, but unmasks total stupidity of Wall Street 5 stars
8/17/06 Mary Beth brilliant; watched it twice and read the book after 5 stars
5/18/06 Phil M. Aficionado EricDSnider never HEARD of Enron before the scandal? Really? Stunning. Great film. 5 stars
11/22/05 giang gghhjjj 4 stars
5/31/05 frekko I liked this even though i did not know the whole story about enron. 5 stars
5/06/05 Michelle Lofton unbelievably believable! 5 stars
5/05/05 Christy Schultz Makes you think about things 4 stars
5/02/05 Dorothy Malm good movie, thankfully this kind of business practice is illegal now. 4 stars
4/20/05 Monster W. Kung These people make me wanna vomit. 5 stars
4/17/05 Kathleen Cunningham This film should help to make the scales fall from the eyes of the American public. 5 stars
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  22-Apr-2005 (R)
  DVD: 17-Jan-2006



Directed by
  Alex Gibney

Written by

  John Beard
  Jim Chanos
  Carol Coale
  Peter Coyote
  Gray Davis

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