I'm not sure there's anything in Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room that you couldn't have read about in newspapers and magazines during the last four years, or in the book by two Fortune writers that the documentary's based on. But it's nice to have all the information in one place ' the whole sordid story of an outfit that turned cooking the books into a kind of performance art. And it's nice to put faces on the names that have come to symbolize corporate greed, Texas-style: Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling, Andrew Fastow. Before plunging into bankruptcy almost overnight, the gas-and-electric behemoth cultivated a reputation as a company that dared to go where other companies feared to tread. Turns out there's a word for that place: prison.
Actually, writer-director Alex Gibney ends his account before the Enron executives begin the trials portion of their trials and tribulations. And he doesn't really help us get to know these guys, despite calling their story "a human tragedy." But he does offer a meticulous account of how they went from obeying the law to breaking the law without losing a step. And he's spiffed up his presentation just enough to make sorting through Enron's financial transactions seem like an attractive idea. It was all an elaborate Ponzi scheme, of course ' a Ponzi scheme posing as the flagship for the New Economy. And if Gibney seems a little generous in apportioning blame, spreading it like manure over CEOs, CFOs, lawyers, bankers, analysts and accountants, well, there was plenty of the stuff to go around.