Joseph Pallas’s review published on Letterboxd:
Sydney Underground Film Festival 2021
Externo is advertised as being a “lo-fi, conspiratorial, revolutionary riff on The Big Short”, and while that certainly comes nowhere near to being a precise description of the anti-narrative and avant garde tone of the piece it does quite nicely indicate the political and economic analysis of the film without giving too much away. Like Adam McKay’s look into the 2008 financial crash this film sets out to explain the processes and mechanisms of the overarching financial systems that make up the bulk of the world economy, though that’s where the similarities end. Whereas McKay’s flimsy and tepid presentation of the housing loan crisis is dependent on heavy handed explanations of high level finance jargon and does little in the way of providing a critique of the systemology in question brothers Jonathan and Leandro Taub instead widen their perspective and attempt to tackle the entirety of the western imperial monetary system, moving past analysis of singular events or functions of markets and communicate the concepts and forces that inform the creation and function of the systems in question, and subsequently do a much better job of explaining and challenging those systems and their often disastrous outcomes.
As any other larger scale analysis of how the upper echelon of the capitalist economy function it is undoubtedly goofy and even a little ridiculous at times, both in terms of the presentation and the material being discussed, but that’s more of a casualty of the material than it is the film. The system is built on an overarching and interlocking series of implications of force facilitating the expropriation of capital and profit that are covered by their entrenchment in bland legalism, and so any serious analysis is going to have to discuss those implications and combat their justifications. While there really is no other way to talk about how that systems functions and ensure it’s engaging other than delving into the conspiratorial side of such an analysis the film does perhaps lean a touch too heavily into that, especially when it comes to the presentation. The bulk of the film features Leandro Taub standing in a derelict building plainly stating instructions into a phone, both codifying the idea of the bourgeois directly controlling the economy into a visual metaphor and playing into the classical imagery of the “New World Order” type figures that are typically associated with this kind of direct control.
It’s a little too didactic and hokey to be as convincing as the film makers perhaps set out to be, though there is a lot to be said for the weight that comes with openly stating those precepts and filtering them through an economic lens, and so one could argue it would be convincing just as easily as it could be argued to be unconvincing. The technical approach would likely be an argument for the negative as heavy dialogues and lack of character interaction don’t do much in the way of creating a human platform for an audience to rest on when the material becomes a bit bewildering. That confusing is more than likely intentional to some degree though, the film makers communicating just how nonsensical much of the decision making that controls the processes in question are whilst always serving its primary goal in making the lead increasingly rich. The staging ties into that as well, with the leads wealth not being reflected in anything but his own announcements to his wealth and otherwise having no tangible effect on his person or his surroundings. That in itself is an excellent critique of ultra wealth, and while Externo doesn’t offer any alternatives or solutions to the injustices it argues is a symptom of the accumulation of that wealth it is quite deft at communicating the insanity of a system that would allow this.