Movie Review
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
Enron poster
By Scott Sycamore     Published May 3, 2005
US Release: April 22, 2005

Directed by: Alex Gibney
Starring: Peter Coyote

Running Time: 110 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $4,064,421
All of this information was covered in the news, which means that it was not necessary to make a documentary that runs through the same terrain again.
This is a difficult film to review. It is a documentary, and sets out only to inform its audience about the giant corporate scandal that was Enron. On an academic level, the film provides most of what is needed; but I have to talk about the film as a piece of entertainment that someone is going to shell out money for at a theater. On this level, the movie is not quite up to snuff.

Most people are at least a bit familiar with the Enron shake-up. The Houston-based energy giant went from being the country's 7th largest corporation to a completely bankrupt, dried-up husk in the blink of an eye. This happened mainly because of severely dishonest accounting practices, which management was only too happy to cover up and perpetuate. All of this information was covered in the news when the story broke, which means that it was not entirely necessary to make a theatrical documentary film that runs through the same terrain again.

It at least provides an opportunity for the filmmakers to get into the nitty-gritty of what brought down the En-pire. The only way to do that is to focus on the people involved in detail, and this movie does. Kenneth Lay, Jeffrey Skilling, Andrew Fastow, and other major players are raked over the coals here. Their motives and methods of operation are pretty well dissected, if not in an overly tutorial manner; you can really smell the stink of human greed.

This film's main problem is that it's just too dry. Descriptions of financial shenanigans do not make for a compelling motion picture, even if the story is important to the nation's well being. A film like this really makes you appreciate Michael Moore; whatever you think of his politics, Mr. Moore creates documentaries that entertain. Any set of facts and figures can enlighten people, but when such information is wrapped in an engagingly cinematic package, the results go far beyond the norm. This movie simply cannot hit that stride, as it relies on the contents of the story alone to keep the engine running.

There are so many muckraking, anti-corporate documentaries out nowadays that this film feels like it came a little late in the game. Fare such as this can be downloaded for free at many different web sites; folks do not need to go to a movie theater to receive this type of knowledge. The timing is off in other ways as well: Bush is back in office despite massive pleas from the leftist crowd to remove him, there have been several big corporate scandals since Enron, and there's just so much big news nowadays that the whole Enron debacle feels even older than it is. Even though this movie re-states the relevance of the Enron saga, one can't help but feel like it's just one piece in a puzzle of unthinkably huge world events.
Scott's Grade: C+
Scott's Overall Grading: 417 graded movies
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