Starring: Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, Jeffrey Wright, Matthias Schoenaerts, James Cromwell, Sharon Stone, Alex Pettyfer, David Schwimmer, Will Forte
OUR RATING: ★★★☆☆
Bio-drama directed by Steven Soderbergh and the story follows Ellen Martin (Meryl Streep), whose dream vacation takes a wrong turn and leads her down a rabbit hole of shady dealings that can all be traced to one Panama City law firm, run by seductive founding partners Jürgen Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Ramón Fonseca (Antonio Banderas). She soon learns that her minor predicament is only a drop in the bucket of millions of files linking an off-shore tax scheme to the world’s richest and most powerful political leaders.
Our Favorite Quotes:'Bad is such a big word, for being such a small word.' - Jürgen Mossack (The Laundromat) Click To Tweet 'Saving the world, as it turns out, is very hard.' - Ramón Fonseca (The Laundromat) Click To Tweet 'Inside all of us, there are packs of wolves, some flocks of sheep roaming through our thoughts. We want to be fair, and yet, we want to win. We want to be righteous, but we want to get ahead. Such is our struggle.' - Ramón Fonseca Click To Tweet 'In this system, our system, the slaves are unaware, both of their status and of their masters, who exist in a world apart, and where the shackles are hidden amidst reams of unreachable legalese.' - Ellen Martin (The Laundromat) Click To Tweet
Ramón Fonseca: First of all, there are some things you should know before we begin.
Jürgen Mossack: For instance, we are real people, just like you.
Ramón Fonseca: Secondly, we did not write a word of this. To be perfectly frank, we would have preferred all of this remain a secret.
Jürgen Mossack: But we had no choice in the matter. We just woke up one day and everything changed.
Ramón Fonseca: There were stories about us everywhere, TV, newspapers, and the internet.
Jürgen Mossack: And now it is our turn to tell a few stories. Think of them as fairytales that actually happened.
Ramón Fonseca: Don’t worry, these stories are not just about us. They’re also about you.
Jürgen Mossack: And how is that possible?
Ramón Fonseca: Because all these stories are about money.
Jürgen Mossack: The idea of money. The necessity of money. The secret life of money.
Ramón Fonseca: So credit is just the future tense of the language of money.
[after her husband died from drowning on a cruise, where the boat capsized]
Ellen Martin: So what happens next? What do we do next?
Lawyer: Well, Shoreline Cruises, like most of these outfits, they have insurance for accidents and such. And that involves filing a claim, which they have done with the carrier.
Ellen Martin: So basically, they drowned Joe, and twenty other innocent people, and you can get insurance for that?
[referring to the families of the people that died after their pleasure boat capsized, which included Ellen’s husband]
Captain Paris: Matty, they’re going to come after us, aren’t they?
Matthew Quirk: I can’t sleep at night. I have dreams about those people. Faces floating up in the waves, bodies washing up on the beach. Beach by my house.
Captain Paris: Maybe we could try to settle with them.
Matthew Quirk: Of course, we want to settle. We are hat in hand here, Rich. Hat in hand, wanting to settle with the best of intentions.
[referring to the insurance settlement from her husband’s accidental death]
Ellen Martin: I am putting down the settlement money from the accident. I look out there and I see him smiling at me, holding two tickets.
Hannah: You see who?
Ellen Martin: Two tickets to the rest of my life. I walk around Detroit, I see him reaching up for dead leaves in a lake. If these people, whoever they are, if they knew, I could explain it to them. There are so many places they could live.
Hannah: I can’t give you their name, by law. Maybe you could talk to their lawyer.
Ellen Martin: That’s right. I could write them a letter. That wouldn’t be an invasion of anybody’s privacy.
Hannah: I can’t give you their name.
Ellen Martin: If I could just talk to them. Why?
Ellen Martin: Cash. Who pays cash?
Ramón Fonseca: So, how does it all work, this world of offshore companies? And how do you know if it is for you?
Jürgen Mossack: First of all, you must ask yourself, are you wealthy? There are just over two thousand billionaires on planet Earth. Maybe you are one of them, or maybe you are just a millionaire. There are fifteen million of them in the world.
Lawyer: I mean, the damn insurance company is the problem here. You know, I just, I don’t understand how they can just walk away from any of this. The United Reinsurance Group of Nevis. They’re the ones getting away with murder.
Ellen Martin: Where in the world is Nevis?
[referring to his his boat company’s insurance being a scam]
Matthew Quirk: How is any of this possible?
Special Agent Kilmer: Purser backdated the letter to make it look like he sent it before the accident so he wouldn’t have to pay.
Matthew Quirk: What about United? Um, they said United reinsured Monarch.
Special Agent Kilmer: No United either. It’s just a scam that goes from Houston, to the West Indies, to Panama, to some bank, who knows where. Looks like an 18 US code 13-43, or 49.
Matthew Quirk: I’m sorry, 13-40, what?
Special Agent Kilmer: Fraud.
Matthew Quirk: All I did wrong was try and save money. I tried to buy what I needed for less. That, and I trusted someone in Houston.
Mossack’s Secretary: Do you know the name Malchus Irvin Boncamper?
Jürgen Mossack: I’m not sure. Is it a real name?
Mossack’s Secretary: Yes, sir. It’s a very real name.
Jürgen Mossack: How might I know it?
Mossack’s Secretary: He’s from Nevis.
Jürgen Mossack: It’s a lovely island.
Mossack’s Secretary: He was arrested at Miami International Airport. I think he’s going to go to jail.
Jürgen Mossack: I see. Well, maybe you’ll tell me how well do we know Mr. Boncamper?
Mossack’s Secretary: He’s director of forty-six different Mossack Fonseca companies. The Prague offices use him quite a bit.
Jürgen Mossack: Well, we will want to change that.
Mossack’s Secretary: Change that now? We can’t really go back in time. He’s all over the books.
Jürgen Mossack: Well, some people believe that time is just an illusion. That all moments are the same moment.
Mossack’s Secretary: I think it might be bad for us to do something like that.
Jürgen Mossack: Bad? Bad is such a big word, for being such a small word.
[as Ellen is trying to find the insurance company of the boating company that killed her husband]
Ellen Martin: I found out it’s a company. New Century Enterprises of Panama.
Lawyer: Wait, I thought you said it was Russia. Russians with cash.
Ellen Martin: No, that’s what Hannah told me.
Lawyer: Hannah? Hannah who?
Ellen Martin: She’s the realtor with the tight dresses. Anyway, I looked up New Century Enterprises, and it turns out it’s controlled by a trust, something called a trust. A trust is like a fiduciary, under which a third party can…
Lawyer: I know what a trust is. I…
Ellen Martin: Okay. Okay. So the director of both New Century, and the trust, is a woman. A woman named Mia Beltran.
Lawyer: Mia Bel… Okay, is that a name that I should know?
Ellen Martin: Well, she is obviously very powerful. She is the director of numerous companies. All her companies are registered to the same law firm, in Panama. Mossack and Fonseca.
[referring to Mossack Fonseca]
Ellen Martin: As far as I can see, what they do is they set up companies. Not real companies like a hotel, or a hardware store. They set up what they call a shell, and they sell shells. Not actual shells.
Journalist: I’m sorry, you lost me. I…
[referring to her husband’s accidental death]
Ellen Martin: When there’s an accident, like the one that took Joe and Barb, there’s nobody that we can hold accountable. There’s nobody that we can ask questions, and find out what happens next, you know? It’s just empty shells. You see? It’s just empty. It’s just shells.
Journalist: That’s the story? Empty shells?
Ellen Martin: Oh, no, no. The story is somebody died! And somebody’s making money from it. Maybe lots of people. Right? That’s why we brought it to you. Somebody has to sound the alarm.
Journalist: We like to focus on stories that are closer to home. Where did you say this company is located again?
Ellen Martin: Panama.
Norm Sidley: Like the hat.
Ramón Fonseca: The theology of liberation is what the Catholics called it. The meek. They were supposed to inherit the earth. It doesn’t seem it worked out that way to me. Father Gallego, up there, was kidnapped and killed by the army for causing problems in Panama. He’s gone. But the meek, they’re still around. So I went to law school instead. I thought that maybe the meek needed a better lawyer. Now, in 1972, I went to work for the United Nations. I wanted to save the world. Saving the world, as it turns out, is very hard. You know, long hours, bad pay, and perhaps the world does not want to be saved.
Ramón Fonseca: Inside all of us, there are packs of wolves, some flocks of sheep roaming through our thoughts. We want to be fair, and yet, we want to win. We want to be righteous, but we want to get ahead. Such is our struggle. Uh, at some point, you decide it might just be easier to save yourself. So I became a lawyer for the not-so-meek.
[referring to the offshore companies they service]
Ramón Fonseca: So what do all of those companies do?
Jürgen Mossack: Most of the time, we don’t even know.
[referring to the Sinaloa Cartel Leader]
Jürgen Mossack: Oh! Pablo Escobar is like a child nursing at his mother’s t*t compared to this man! I don’t want to be one of those people he visits when he gets out of jail.
Jürgen Mossack: Did we happen to mention, we are in this for the money?!
[as Charles watches Astrid floating in the swimming pool listening to her music]
Charles: How do you like your headphones?
Charles: Don’t drop those in the water.
Astrid: They’re not waterproof?
Charles: They’re gold.
Astrid: Is gold waterproof?
[referring to the money from the shares her father, Charles, promised her]
Simone: How the hell does he get away with this? Look, where the f**k is my money?
Jürgen Mossack: Well, if you want more information on your father’s financial activities, I’m afraid I will have to direct you toward his bank.
Simone: You have to tell us something.
Jürgen Mossack: Actually, I’m not obliged to tell you anything. That is the letter of the law. Good day.
Miranda: The world is just men hiding behind piles of paper.
Ramón Fonseca: More than anything else, our clients expect one thing from us.
Jürgen Mossack: Privacy.
Ramón Fonseca: Now, privacy and secrecy are two different things. Privacy is locking the bathroom door when you want to take a pee.
Jürgen Mossack: Secrecy, on the other hand, is locking the door because what you are doing in a bathroom is not what people usually do.
Ramón Fonseca: And sometimes, after privacy has had a few drinks, it might decide it wants to spend the night with secrecy just to explore the relationship.
Jürgen Mossack: But where can they be together without people peeking in through the curtains?
Ramón Fonseca: Well, usually, in an offshore company. That way, someone looks in a window, they see an empty room.
Jürgen Mossack: And the window, and the room, could be in two different places.
Ramón Fonseca: Yeah, the window could be in the British Virgin Islands, and the room could be in, uh…
Ellen Martin: China. It goes all the way to China.
Ellen Martin: Bribery, corruption, money laundering. Millions and millions and millions of dollars. And they’re trying to hide the whole thing through this company called Russell… Yes, Russell Properties.
Gu Kailai: I trust business has been as good for you as it has been for us here?
Maywood: Last year, China became the largest exporting country on the planet, replacing Germany. And you also became the largest automotive market in the world. Hats off. Every year, we get buried under more regulations. You, you get buried under more dosh.
Gu Kailai: My husband is very impressed with your understanding of the world. He says people like you are why the British controlled China for so long.
Maywood: I’ll take that as a compliment.
Gu Kailai: Well, you should. My husband’s a brilliant man. He will likely ascend from his position on the Politburo to become the leader of all of China one day.
Maywood: Now it’s time to rinse and repeat.
Maywood: I’m nothing more than a white glove, as you say.
Gu Kailai: Oh…
Maywood: Yes, I am. A way to keep your hands from getting dirty.
Gu Kailai: There are many white gloves in China now. You, Mr. Maywood, you’re more than that. Your initiative is inspiring.
Maywood: For Communists, you seem to catch on very quickly.
[after Kailai murders Maywood by poisoning his drink; in Chinese]
Arresting Officer: Gu Kailai, you are being arrested for murder.
Gu Kailai: Whatever I’ve done, I’ve done to defend the honor of my country and my husband.
Jürgen Mossack: So where did these ideas come from? Where most ideas about money come from. The United States of America.
Ramón Fonseca: In the lat 19th century, the state of Delaware realized it could not attract business the same way New York and New Jersey do.
Jürgen Mossack: So Delaware began writing corporate friendly tax laws, hoping to lure more business.
Ramón Fonseca: And it worked.
Jürgen Mossack: You are probably wondering, is this legal? Hm?
Ramón Fonseca: Yes. This is called tax avoidance.
Jürgen Mossack: Now, tax evasion is a crime, but tax avoidance, that’s what put us in business. And the line between the two, we like to say, it’s as thin as a jailhouse wall.
Ramón Fonseca: Now, those very bad things that have happened to Ellen.
Jürgen Mossack: First, the sinking of the boat, then losing the condo in Vegas.
Ramón Fonseca: Yes. It’s taking a toll on her health.
Jürgen Mossack: Her daughter says she has lost appetite, she isn’t sleeping, and the anger she is feeling is eating her up inside, because the world is beyond her control.
Ramón Fonseca: She can’t afford to make campaign contributions to politicians who could change the laws that torment her.
[referring to Ellen sat in a church, praying]
Ramón Fonseca: But instead, she has to come here and pray.
[as Ellen is praying in church]
Ellen Martin: [voice over] Thank you, Lord, thank you. Thank you for everything. I hate to ask this, but I was just wondering when exactly the meek will be inheriting the Earth? Will that be in my lifetime, or in my grandkids? And the part about the first being the last, and the last shall be first, when does that start? Hm? And what about the rest of us in the middle, you know? We’re just falling further, and further, and further behind.
[as Ellen continues to pray]
Ellen Martin: [voice over] My mother used to say, “May lightning strike them all without hitting me.” Well, aren’t you still in charge of lightning? I know. I know, I know, I know. I know I’m supposed to say, “Forgive them, Father. They know not what they do.” But I think they do know goddamn well what they’re doing, they just don’t care. If just one of them could say, “I’m sorry,” you know, and mean it. Or go to jail. Or both. Yeah. Hey, that would be nice. How about both?
[to their employees]
Jürgen Mossack: Uh, we are in the process of an in-depth investigation, with experts who have confirmed that, unfortunately, we have been subject to an unauthorized breach in our email server. We are working with the help of outside consultants to determine the extent to which our system was accessed by unauthorized persons.
Mossack Fonseca Employee: What do we tell our clients?
Ramón Fonseca: Well, uh, “We regret again any inconvenience that this event may have caused you, and, uh, we thank you for your continued trust,” and, uh… Yeah.
Jürgen Mossack: We were accused of obstruction of justice, but that was never proven.
Ramón Fonseca: Never.
Jürgen Mossack: Maybe our opponent stole the data to punish us.
Ramón Fonseca: Then again, maybe it was another law firm, jealous of our success. Such is the nature of all business.
Jürgen Mossack: Or maybe it was a hacker who found a backdoor to rob us of our reputations and stole our future.
Ramón Fonseca: An emissary of the meek, not content to wait for their inheritance.
Jürgen Mossack: Someone who labored under the naive understanding of the world around them. Who blamed us for every pothole and collapsing bridge, for every school without books, for every stomach without food.
[after the leaks of the Panama Papers, police raids on Mossack Fonseca and them ending up in prison]
Jürgen Mossack: I think Ramón wishes he had not said some of the things he said that day about our president. These are the kinds of wishes that men have when they are sitting in jail.
[being freed after only serving three months in prison]
Ramón Fonseca: So, if we are the losers, then who are the winners? The meek? Children who need books? The poor who need homes? No. The United States.
Jürgen Mossack: The biggest tax haven in the world. Delaware. Nevada. Wyoming. How much due diligence is happening there? Yes, there is a brand new tax law in America. And it does nothing to stop any of this.
Ramón Fonseca: Well, we thank you for listening to our side of the story. Mossack Fonseca is no more. But there are many other firms just like us. Yeah. Still in business all around the world.
[breaking the fourth wall]
Ellen Martin: In this system, our system, the slaves are unaware, both of their status and of their masters, who exist in a world apart, and where the shackles are hidden amidst reams of unreachable legalese. It is a result of massive pervasive corruption of the legal profession. When it takes a whistleblower to sound the alarm, it is cause for even greater concern. Because it signals that democracy’s checks and balances have all failed, and that severe instability could be just around the corner.
[last lines; breaking the fourth wall]
Ellen Martin: So now is the time for real action. It starts with asking questions. Tax evasion cannot possibly be fixed while elected officials are pleading for money from the very elites who have the strongest incentives to avoid taxes, relative to any other segment of the population. These political practices have come full circle and are irreconcilable. Reform of America’s broken campaign finance system cannot wait.
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