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‘Live Another Day’ Documentary Chronicles Detroit’s Darkest Days

For many in the automotive world, it’s hard to believe nearly a decade has passed since GM and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy.

Opening old wounds by reminding us all how dire things were between 2008 and 2010, the film Live Another Day is like a flashback to the Great Recession’s darkest days when the Detroit Three nearly vanished.

Based on the book Crash Course by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Paul Ingrassia, this movie provides an insider’s look at the nuts and bolts of America’s unprecedented automotive bailout, an eye-opening, behind-the-scenes glimpse at the wheeling and dealing it took to rescue America’s industrial heart.

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Co-directed and produced by friends Bill Burke and Didier Pietri of Argos Pictures, this film draws on the expertise of countless industry insiders; it’s a story told by the people who were involved with the proceedings and survived this unimaginably bleak time. The cast list reads like a who’s who of the automotive, financial and government fields, with first-hand insight provided by the following people, to name but a handful.

Bob Lutz, longtime automotive industry executive and former vice chairman of product development at GM

Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan

Jay Leno, legendary entertainer and automobile aficionado

Steve Rattner, American financier and leader of the presidential automotive task force

Bob Nardelli, former chairman and CEO of Chrysler

Senator Bob Corker, Tennessee (R)

Bob King, former president of the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) union

The main thrust of Live Another Day is the GM and Chrysler Chapter 11 filings. It explains in great detail the negotiations and compromises, trials and tribulations that went into securing the necessary funds to keep these firms above water at a time when the financial industry had all but imploded. Beyond this, it touches on some of the root causes of the catastrophe, from the banking crisis to the housing bubble to sky-high fuel prices to the toxic relationship between labor and corporate management.

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This film does a masterful job exploring and explaining these topics, through the voices of those who were directly involved, no less. However, I found it utterly lacking in emotion; it was as sterile as an operating room before surgery.

Live Another Day is purely analytical in its approach to what is, admittedly, a very numbers-driven topic, though I found myself wanting for more. If it only gave the viewer a sense of what it was like living and working in Detroit during this dark period, it could have been so much more powerful. Instead, it plods from one sound bite to another, with amateurish graphics and zero narration to tie things together.

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The movie also paints a grim picture of the UAW, which it seems to singlehandedly blame for the bankruptcy fiasco, citing the organization’s rich wages and benefits, onerous work rules and astronomical costs for dragging the Detroit Three down. Of course, organized labor’s influence did get out of hand for many years, but to color the UAW as nothing but an overly powerful cartel that has outlived its usefulness seems more than a bit calloused toward a group that helped protect workers’ rights and build the middle class in this country.

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Another unexpected target in this motion picture is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne. Through the eyes of the filmmakers – and many of the individuals they interviewed – he seems to be viewed as almost an opportunistic vulture, one that swept in at the right time with the right plan and drove away with Chrysler for nothing.

While hardly an action-packed blockbuster, Live Another Day is nonetheless a must-watch film for car enthusiasts, people with a passing interest in the automotive industry or anyone that just wants an insider’s perspective on an unprecedented moment in America’s recent history. You can look for this film at select theaters across the country starting on September 16.

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