All but a shoe-in for an Oscar nomination, Alex Gibney puts Jack Abramoff in the spotlight in his latest punishing documentary Casino Jack and the United States of Money, which paints a disturbing web of bribes, greed, corruption and twisted American views amongst some of the most powerful men in the government, primarily Republicans.
To be honest, I knew little about Abramoff's dealings before Casino Jack. I knew of him and knew what he represented, but not the details or extent of his dealings. If even a portion of the documentary is true, which one can assume it is, the country is in a lot of trouble. Abramoff was influential, but he was also simply a cog in the wheel in a destructive and dangerous machine that continues to operate until this day. The fact that no politicians (Republicans or Democrats, but primarily Republicans) have taken the fall for being mixed up with the guy is startling and should concern every American citizen.
The movie itself is excellent, which isn't surprising given its source. Gibney, the director of Oscar-winning Taxi to the Dark Side and Oscar-nominated Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, has done it again. The movie is incredible detailed and complex, but Gibney knows how to narrate his thousands of facts into an energetic, entertaining and disturbing tale. The movie flows at a fast pace, mixing in an electric score and visual snippets to appeal to modern day attention spans, but it still misses no punches. This isn't your daddy's documentary.
Casino Jack and the United States of Money is another excellent documentary from Alex Gibney. Like his other documentaries, this film should be shown in high schools - and, given Gibney's filmmaking talent, could be watched and keep students engaged. Watch for this one at the Oscars.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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