Margin Call

Margin Call

Directed by: J.C. Chandor
Cast: Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Penn Badgley, Demi Moore
Running Time: 1 hr 50 mins
Rating: R
Release Date: October 21, 2011

PLOT: At the beginning of the financial crisis, a key group of people who work at an investment bank contemplate their options.

WHO’S IT FOR? Do you want to see a quality drama about businessmen dealing with a firm’s crisis? The film barely leaves the office, so this one is all business.

OVERALL

A company is falling apart. Do you want to watch? Maybe not. After all,
Up in the Air and Company Men recently tackled this ground with positive results. Plus, there are plenty of documentaries to give us the actual insight to what happened and what went wrong. But hang on a second, there’s mystery as well. That mystery is something we’ve all come to know and “love” as our economic crisis.

It’s an all-star cast. Sure, we love to say that, and actually now that I say it, it’s not totally true. It’s a fringe all-star cast with Bettany, Spacey, Quinto, Tucci, Moore, Jeremy Irons and more. None of them can open a movie on their own, but together they make this movie work. There is definitely a reliance on the performances since we already know the greater outcome.

The film begins with Eric (Tucci) getting fired. It’s a surprise to him, as he’s in risk management, and there is definitely risk lurking. Watching someone get fired isn’t always sad, but it is when it’s a character played by Tucci. There is an automatically built it. There’s also an Up in the Air vibe with the firing scene.

With Eric gone, he passes his knowledge along to Peter (Quinto). This sets off a change reaction within the investment bank with the big guns being brought it. It’s amazing how many people “know” what the research means, even though they don’t know how to read the numbers. This comes to a perfect head when the CEO (Irons) shows up and tells Peter to speak to him like he’s a child or a golden retriever.

The tension of what business people do, when their backs are against the corporate wall, is where this movie gets its thrust.

Badgley gives us a glimpse at untouchable youth as the young one (age 23) in the room, who seems simply happy to be in the room. Simon Baker is one of the guys in charge of the company, and finally gave me a reason to see him as something besides a CBS guy.

Paul Bettany is a man trapped in the middle. He is probably who most of us will identity with, even if we don’t want to admit it. Kevin Spacey really shines as the guy who runs their trading floor. At first he seems disconnected and uncaring about the company. He only cares about his ailing dog. That doesn’t make him heartless, but only focused on his personal pain as opposed to those around him. Lately Spacey has been smug with the characters he has played, but with Margin Call it starts that way but evolves into something else.

We love to think that “we just react” to what happens around us. It’s even a quote from the film. The idea that we can only react is one of the reasons we got into this economic mess. The protection of the individual at the sake of our society always kills me. But, what are you going to do? Throw money at it. No really, throw some money at Margin Call, it’s worth it.

FINAL SCORE: 7/10

2 Comments

  1. Piotr says:

    With equal parts explanation, apology, cautionary tale, rationalization, pity party, “Margin Call” might be a tense fictional account of financial irresponsibility if it wasn’t based in fact. The sum of the aforementioned parts do not add up to a satisfying whole as “Margin Call” is a cacophony of ideas with none in the lead.

  2. Piotr says:

    Maybe, if this film had been given a little more spunk, more drama, stronger scenes, and consequently stretched out to several hours, it could have been a good mini-series, but as it stands, it’s boring and bad.

Leave a Comment