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With: Bethany McLean, Peter Elkind, Gray Davis, etc.
Written by: Alex Gibney, based on the book by Bethany McLean, Peter Elkind
Directed by: Alex Gibney
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 110
Date: 04/22/2005

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Corporate Values

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The new documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room might have fallen in nicely with last year's pre-election onslaught of anti-right films -- except for the fact that it's not nearly as effective as Fahrenheit 9/11, as thorough as The Corporation, as immediate as Control Room, or as persuasive as Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry. Certainly the Enron story is one that should be told and remembered, but Alex Gibney's film, based on the book by Bethany McLean and PeterElkind, feels rushed, slight and ultimately inconclusive. It claims tofind the humanity in this rouge's gallery of corporate swindlers, butultimately it hates them as much as anyone does. Once again, we learnabout Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, Andy Fastow and other villains, but sinceGibney doesn't have direct access to them, they remain distant andsinister. The film recounts the rise of this strange business, whoseinitial job was to sell energy shares, and interviews many of itslower-rung traders as well as journalists and even a priest who has beencounseling the laid-off workers. The film describes how Enronmanipulated the system to keep its stock prices high, even going so faras to mess with California's energy system, without any sense of moralcompass. In one high point, the film interviews former Californiagovernor Gray Davis, who comes right out and says that his 2003 "recall"was a direct conspiratorial effort on the part of Enron. Yet Enron: TheSmartest Guys in the Room ignores the many technical and psychologicaldetails that might begin to explain how such a disaster could have comeabout; it also fails to warn us that it could very easily happen again.

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