Cert 15 96mins Stars 4
Steven Soderbergh returns to the big screen in playful mood with this Netflix production to lay bare 2015’s Panama Papers scandal, which he turns into a smart, brisk, gleefully inventive and black comic drama.
It combines the social conscience the director demonstrated in his 2000 Oscar winning Erin Brockovich, and his keen eye for a contemporary issue as seen in his work such as 2011’s Contagion.
To make the rampant illegality on show palatable – though no less enraging – his dynamic visual approach makes deft work of clearly illustrating complex financial systems, and alongside a first class cast he employs flights of fantasy, some animation, and an occasionally jolly tone.
He skilfully weaves several stories together to illustrate the human cost of the industrial scale corruption, tax evasion and money laundering which was revealed when a hacker published millions of secret documents belonging to a Panamanian law firm.
Meryl Streep is full of surprises as a grieving granny who we follow on her search for a crumb of responsibility or accountability after her insurance company weasels on a payout.
She discovers contracts are not worth the paper they’re written on as she tries to penetrate a world of shady financial trusts where people literally moving bits of paper around to take advantage of favourable tax codes.
David Schwimmer’s on-screen likeability and ability to essay a good person greatly out of his depth is put to huge effect as a little guy getting screwed by big money.
Plus Sharon Stone, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeffrey Wright, James Cromwell and Robert Patrick are among the talented supporting cast.
Meanwhile Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas are a wonderfully theatrical double act as the self-justifying lawyers at the heart of affair, washing their hands while turning a blind eye as they launder eye-watering sums of money for the global elite.
Wearing tuxedo’s and sipping Martini’s, they justify in layman’s terms the amoral secret life of money, how ere privacy laws exist to protect the rich and powerful, and are indifferent as the criminality extends to fraud, extortion, organ harvesting and murder.
And as Streep makes clear in an impassioned plea for the liberty of information, the meek will not be inheriting the earth – or much else – anytime soon.