Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

4.3 8
Director: Alex Gibney

Cast: Alex Gibney, Peter Coyote

     
 

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Alex Gibney, who wrote and produced Eugene Jarecki's The Trials of Henry Kissinger, examines the rise and fall of an infamous corporate juggernaut in Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, which he wrote and directed. The film, based on the book by Fortune Magazine reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, opens with a reenactment of the suicide of EnronSee more details below

Overview

Alex Gibney, who wrote and produced Eugene Jarecki's The Trials of Henry Kissinger, examines the rise and fall of an infamous corporate juggernaut in Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, which he wrote and directed. The film, based on the book by Fortune Magazine reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, opens with a reenactment of the suicide of Enron executive Cliff Baxter, then travels back in time, describing Enron chairman Kenneth Lay's humble beginnings as the son of a preacher, his ascent in the corporate world as an "apostle of deregulation," his fortuitous friendship with the Bush family, and the development of his business strategies in natural gas futures. The film points out that the culture of financial malfeasance at Enron was evident as far back as 1987, when Lay apparently encouraged the outrageous risk taking and profit skimming of two oil traders in Enron's Valhalla office because they were bringing a lot of money into the company. But it wasn't until eventual CEO Jeff Skilling arrived at Enron that the company's "aggressive accounting" philosophy truly took hold. The Smartest Guys in the Room explores the lengths to which the company went in order to appear incredibly profitable. Their win-at-all-costs strategy included suborning financial analysts with huge contracts for their firms, hiding debts by essentially having the company loan money to itself, and using California's deregulation of the electricity market to manipulate the state's energy supply. Gibney's film reveals how Lay, Skilling, and other execs managed to keep their riches, while thousands of lower-level employees saw their loyalty repaid with the loss of their jobs and their retirement funds. The filmmaker posits the Enron scandal not as an anomaly, but as a natural outgrowth of free-market capitalism.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Ed Hulse
At this writing in early 2006, the principal players in the sordid drama of Enron -- believed by some accusers to be the most egregious corporate malefactors in American history -- are about to go on trial for pillaging their company and devaluing its stock, leaving thousands of employees and investors holding the bag while they absconded with millions. Alex Gibney's documentary examines the meteoric rise and spectacular fall of this Houston, Texas-based firm, which for a time made its top officers wealthy beyond their wildest dreams, and all by engaging in business practices alleged to have been little more than a complex shell game. Enron founder Ken Lay and his successor as CEO, Jeff Skilling, are pretty well skewered in Gibney's film, which in its own way is every bit as riveting as a suspense thriller. Without putting too fine a point of it, the film has all the elements of Greek tragedy; it is hubris that ultimately brings down the main characters. Arrogance, pride, power, the abuse of power -- they're all here. Even if you've been following the story in the media, there are dimensions to the Enron tale of which you're probably unaware. The Smartest Guys in the Room will clue you in, and we predict you'll be amazed by the facts it presents.
All Movie Guide
This quietly devastating documentary is one of the most effective indictments of the big-business mentality ever committed to film. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room succeeds because it never goes overboard in manipulating the viewer. Instead, it treats the rise and fall of Enron with clinical precision, using interviews and copious file footage to lay out the facts of the case and allowing viewers to come to their own conclusions. The end result is a scary documentation of how the profit-first approach of companies like Enron has led to a situation where all the components of the business machine are tainted with corruption. Indeed, the most upsetting part of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is discovering the company's founders were allowed to keep their schemes afloat for so long because they were able to buy off business analysts and major lending institutions. As a result, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is fascinating viewing -- both as an exploration of big business's inner workings and also as a true crime story.

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Product Details

Release Date:
09/25/2006
UPC:
0876964000475
Original Release:
2004
Rating:
R
Source:
Magnolia
Presentation:
[Wide Screen]
Time:
1:50:00
Sales rank:
46,826

Special Features

Feature commentary with writer/director Alex Gibney; Higher Definition: Enron episode (1080i)

Cast & Crew

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
1. "A Human Tragedy"
2. New Crusader
3. Suspicious Profits
4. Darwinian Prophet
5. Lou Pai
6. Boom
7. Perception vs. Reality
8. "Structured Finance"
9. Wide Participation
10. Rolling Blackouts
11. "Burn Baby Burn"
12. Playing the Bush Card
13. Skilling Resigns
14. Inquiry
15. "Ghost Town"
16. Credits

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