The concept of compound interest is enshrined in American cinema, notably director Frank Capra's holiday classic, "It's A Wonderful Life" (1946), in which Jimmy Stewart single-handedly saves the Building and Loan he operates in Bedford Falls from the clutches of Mr. Potter.

"Inside Job" is no "It's A Wonderful Life."

What the engaging documentary lacks in the warm fuzzies, it makes up for with incisive analysis, a bank vault of facts and chilling, ironic and often lip-smacking satisfying interviews with financial experts, some of whom squirm in discomfort before they order the film's director Charles Ferguson to stop his camera.

Priceless.

The film, written by Ferguson, Chad Beck and Adam Bolt and narrated by Matt Damon, begins detailing the 2008 globe economic crisis by starting in Iceland.

Why Iceland?

Because the behavior of the three leading banks in Iceland symbolize the alleged reckless financial risk-taking the film is targeting.

"Inside Job" rounds up, to paraphrase the film, "Casablanca," the usual suspects.

What's surprising is that the usual suspects have been around for some time and still are. We won't name names here. The film, "Inside Job," does that.

An argument could be made that Tea Party anger directed at President Obama and his administration is misplaced, at least concerning the bailout of financial institutions deemed too big to fail.

After all, the $700-billion bank bailout was approved during the waning days of the President George W. Bush administration.

That didn't prevent the collapse of Lehman Brothers and AIG.

The housing bubble burst wasn't the first recent financial crisis. There was the tech bubble debacle of the late 1990s - early 2000s. And there was the S&L scandal of the 1980s.

The 2008 financial meltdown cost more than $20 trillion, caused millions to lose jobs and homes, led to the worst recession since the Great Depression, and nearly brought on a global financial collapse.

The economic repercussions continue to be felt in the United States, as well as Greece, Ireland, Spain and, yes, Iceland.

The spark that flamed the financial fire goes back at least through the administration of President Clinton, when a protective measure set in place during the Great Depression, the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 was repealed in 1999.

This arguably cleared the way for risky financial products known as derivatives, mortgage-backed securities and credit default swaps.

As long as everyone was making money, and housing and real-estate prices were increasing, there was enough prosperity to go around.

But once the housing bubble burst well, you probably know or your wallet, checking account and home value knows the rest of the story.

One of those interviewed in "Inside Job" calls the financial dealings nothing less than "the world's biggest Ponzi scheme."

OK, enough of the Great Recession 101. Is "Inside Job" a worthwhile work of cinema?

Yes and no. The 2008 financial meltdown is too big a subject to be covered thoroughly in one film. "Inside Job" is a good starting point at understanding the financial mess that the United States and much of the western world has gotten itself into.

How the world's governments, businesses and financial institutions will get us out of the mess is another story.

Get ready for the sequel: now playing in your household, and local, national and global economy.

"Inside Job": MPAA rated Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13) for some drug and sex-related material; Genre: Documentary; Run time: 2 hr.; Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Peter Gabriel's "Big Time" and Bachman Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care of Business are on the "Inside Job" soundtrack.

Box Office, Nov. 26: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1" continued at No. 1 with $50.3 million for the weekend and $220.3 million after two weeks, holding "Tangled," the Disney animated 3-D fairy tale, at No. 2, $49.1 million, weekend; $69 million, since its Nov. 24 opening.

3. "Megamind," $12.8 million, $130.4 million, four weeks; 4. "Burlesque," $11.8 million, weekend; $17.1 million, since Nov. 24; 5. "Unstoppable," $11.7 million, $60.7 million, three weeks; 6. "Love and Other Drugs," $9.8 million; $14 million, since Nov. 24; 7. "Faster," $8.7 million; $12.2 million, since Nov. 24; 8. "Due Date, "$7.3 million, $85 million, four weeks; 9. "The Next Three Days," $4.8 million, $14.5 million, two weeks; 10. "Morning Glory," $4 million, $26.4 million, three weeks.

Unreel: Dec. 3:

"Black Swan," MPAA Rated R: Natalie Portman stars in a thriller set in the world of ballet.

Read previous movie reviews at www.tnonline.com. Email Paul Willistein at: pwillistein@tnonline.com and on Facebook.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes