Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

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Rating: R

Starring:
John Beard as Himself
Jim Chanos as Himself
Carol Coale as Herself
Peter Coyote as Narrator
Gray Davis as Himself
Joseph Dunn as Himself
Max Eberts as Himself
Peter Elkind as Himself
Andrew Fastow as Himself
David Freeman as Himself
Philip Hilder as Himself
Al Kaseweter as Himself
Ken Lay as Himself
Bill Lerach as Himself
Loretta Lynch as Herself
Amanda Martin-Brock as Herself
Bethany McLean as Herself
Mike Muckleroy as Himself
Reverend James Nutter as Himself
John Olson as Himself
Lou L. Pai as Himself
Lou Lung Pai as Himself
Kevin Phillips as Himself
Nancy Rapoport as Herself
Harvey Rosenfield as Himself
Jeff Skilling as Himself
Mimi Swartz as Herself
Sherron Watkins as Herself
Colin Whitehead as Himself
Charles Wickman as Himself

Special Features:
Commentary by: writer-director Alex Gibney

Deleted scenes

“The Making of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” featuring research footage and exclusive interviews with writer-director Alex Gibney and investigative journalist Bethany McLean

Enron company skits

Enron commercial

Where are they now?: updates on the executives, traders, and whistleblowers

A gallery of Enron cartoons

The original Fortune magazine article

Higher Definition – The Enron Show

Firesign Theatre presents: The Fall of Enron

An index of web sites with the latest information

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.78:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 110 Minutes

Synopsis:
The following text is from the DVD cover:

“Based on the best-selling book by Fortune reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room details the shocking inside story of one of history’s greatest business scandals. Unimaginable personal excess and an utter moral vacuum that posed as corporate philosophy , led to top executives of America’s seventh largest corporation walking away with over one billion dollars while investors and employees lost everything. Narrated by peter coyote, this expose features insider accounts and incendiary corporate audio and videotapes that will have viewers blood boiling.”

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is rated R for language and some nudity.

The Movie:
Following in the wake of a year of hard-knock documentaries regarding the ills of the Republican Party and their fearless leader, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is an effective documentary that recaps the dastardly deeds of a powerful Fortune 500 company and their downfall. There are three villains at the helm of this piece and the only protagonists are the faceless masses that were taken for a ride by the Enron Corporation as it came crumbling down in mid-2001.

The Enron story is not an unfamiliar one to those who follow the national news and two Fortune Magazine writers, Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind, compiled the entire sordid story into a 400-plus page book. Documentarian Alex Gibney has now adapted the unwieldy book into an extremely fascinating movie that deals with the greediness of those running the company.

Instead of glossing over the technical speak, director Gibney has made a film that will easily confuse most in the audience as it describes the slack accounting tricks Enron pulled in its heyday. It’s easy to lose a viewer during these precise moments, but as the film starts to go track with these moments, the human element kicks in by profiling the three who led the company to its great downfall.

The film presents Ken Lay, CEO of the corporation during its height, as power-hungry leader; his evil smirk pervades through the entire film and director Gibney paints him as an agile villain whose incompetence got the better of him. Lay isn’t showcased as much as Jeff Skilling; Gibney makes Skilling out to be the one who transformed the company into the hot commodity it was before it crashed. His transformation from introvert to leader of a Fortune 500 company is depicted masterfully and is one of the highlights of the film. The fall guy comes in the form of Andy Fastow whose accounting techniques formed the basis of how Enron did business.

The film is ultimately effective because of the human element involved. By profiling more people than abysmal acts of the company, the documentary moves along at a brisk pace. Some of the more interesting events discussed in the film range from ties to the Bush administration (Bush refers to Lay as “Kenny Boy”) to Enron’s involvements in the Southern California blackout.

Director Gibney gives the piece a very smooth, clean feel by giving Peter Coyote the task of narrator. His voice glides the film along fantastic vistas of Enron’s gigantic corporate headquarters in Houston, Texas. These views continue throughout the movie showcasing the huge scope the company enveloped. It helps make the movie seem more mature and polished, unlike many of the political docs that emanated from last year’s election. This movie is more akin to the Corporation than Bush’s Brain

Though the film is a tad bit on the long side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is an able look into the minds of corrupt men and the motives behind the madness.

The Extras:
There’s an impressive number of bonus features included on this DVD. Here are the highlights:

Commentary by: writer-director Alex Gibney – While the movie itself wasn’t preachy, writer-director Gibney is in this commentary. He reiterates the lessons learned from the Enron scandal to the point that you get a bit sick of it. But besides this he does discuss the making of the film itself, why he chose certain shots, why he chose certain songs, and more.

Deleted scenes – There’s a batch of deleted scenes including Ken Lay’s indictment, more on the California energy crisis, and other scenes. It expands a little on what was seen in the film.

“The Making of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” – This “making of” feature contains research footage and additional interviews with writer-director Alex Gibney and investigative journalist Bethany McLean. It retreads on a lot of what was seen in the film.

Enron company skits – In this section Gibney reads one of the numerous skits that Enron created. In it, they had a trader going on trial for unfair practices. Ironically, the skit reads like the real world trial itself. I’m sure you can do an in-depth psychological study on the Enron executives with these skits alone.

Where are they now? – This brief update tells you where a number of the executives and whistleblowers were at the time of the DVD release. As you might guess, the trial of Kenneth Lay conveniently takes place this month when the DVD is put on sale.

A gallery of Enron cartoons – As you might guess, there were a lot of Enron political cartoons surrounding the scandal. This collects some of the best.

The original Fortune magazine article – One article from Fortune started the revelation of shenanigans at Enron. This is that original article.

Higher Definition – The Enron Show – This short TV show offers a brief look into the making of the film itself. The host interviews Bethany McLean and others.

Firesign Theatre presents: The Fall of Enron – This is video of a radio show that did a short Enron parody skit.

The Bottom Line:
If you want to learn more about the first big corporate scandal of the century, then “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” is a documentary you’ll definitely want to check out.

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