Film Review: 'Margin Call'

 

Film Review: 'Margin Call'

 

Date: November 2, 2011
by: Pam Nadon | Film Critic

 
 

 

Just in time for Halloween, “Margin Call” hits the theaters. It’s all about monsters — not the ghoulish type but, rather, the Wall Street bankers who perpetrated the greatest heist on the American people in recent history.

The action takes place over a 24-hour time frame when an unnamed investment firm precipitates the 2008 financial crisis. It begins with layoffs — 80% of its work force. One of which is Eric (Stanley Tucci), a senior risk analyst who has just realized that Armageddon is about to go down. He passes the information on to a junior colleague, Peter (Zachary Quinto), while he’s being escorted out of the building.

Peter passes the information on to his supervisor, Will (Paul Bettany), who calls his boss, Sam (Kevin Spacey), who eventually alerts the CEO (Jeremy Irons). He’s informed that the loss will exceed the firm’s total market capitalization. Claus von Bülow-cool, Irons’ character shrugs it off like a bad day at the racetrack. His mantra in life is, “There are three ways to make a living in this business: Be first, be smarter or cheat.”

“Margin Call” is not a comforting film to watch, but it does manage to humanize the characters who inhabit it. First-time director J.C. Chandor’s father worked for Merrill Lynch, which may have factored into his approach to the subject matter. He also makes it easy for his audience to grasp what’s happening. It’s not a prerequisite to know about how the stock market operates to really enjoy this excellent film.

His actors are impeccably cast. Spacey shines as the disillusioned 34-year veteran of the firm. In his first scene, he’s on the phone wiping tears from his eyes. We naturally assume it has to do with the impending crash. In actuality, his beloved dog is dying. Spacey spectacularly pulls it off as only he can do. It’s an Oscar-worthy performance on every level.

An ironic bit of timing for the film’s release coincides with the Occupy Wall Street movement. These protesters would revel in the corruption that the film exposes. In the end, when the market was crashing, the firm is still frantically trading worthless commodities. One employee comments to another, “What about the normal people?” His reply: “**** the normal people.” And that they did.

 

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Currently 1 Response

  • 1.
  • Oh, hogwash. Left-wing Hollywood never acts coincidentally. If the theme du jour of the Marxist machine is "big money, greedy people, poor little guys" then Hollywood will churn something out on that theme, and it did. The little people were as greedy as the big people in all this trouble, but it's the big people who (in some cases) got their chestnuts pulled out of the fire by their political patrons. And continue to get salvaged from their reckless behavior to this very day by their patrons in Washington (can you spell Solyndra?). So we can do without the socialist moralizing. And talk about useless people producing a bunch of seamy schlock with no redeeming value -- hello, Hollywood!
  •  
  • Norma Brown
    Mon 7th Nov 2011
    at 4:49pm
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