Margin Call Reviews
"Be First. Be Smarter. Or Cheat."
Margin Call was much more entertaining then I thought possible. The initial plot summary of the film was enough to interest me, but I didn't think I would love it as much as I did. The movie has a tenseness about it, and the actors bring all the tension to the screen through their wonderful performances.
This is a smart film about the beginning of the financial crisis. When an analyst finds a problem, an investment bank goes to work to see how they can solve this. Well, not really solve it, but only make it better for them. The film covers about a 24 hour period from when the investment bank let's a lot of workers go to the "fire sale" that takes place.
The best part of the movie was definitely the acting. There is an impressive ensemble cast at work here, with big names that include: Paul Bettany, Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore, and Stanley Tucci. There's also a good number of familiar faces, but not familiar names. All these actors give pretty good performances and make the most out of the movie. Without a cast that would absolutely bring it, this would have probably been a pretty boring and dry movie. The dryness of the business is left out though because the writing is designed for these actors to do what they do best.
Margin Call is a film that deserves at least one viewing. It's entertaining, it's smart, and it's well made. It may not sound like a fun viewing experience, but in actuality, it really is. The hour and forty minute runtime flew by and at the end I was left satisfied. So give this one a shot, despite how you may think the movie will end up leaving you. Take a chance on it, and you won't regret it.
Despite featuring a few interpersonal stories that diverge from the main narrative, the bulk of the movie looks at the efforts of the young analyst and some of the key players where he works to figure out and contain this potentially devastating situation.
Given the subject matter, the film is pretty watchable, with things being quite accessible for those not familiar with the world of finance. It's fairly easy to follow, and is a lot more engrossing than one might think.
Overall this is a fine movie, but probably not worth repeat viewings. It's noble, and while the writing is pretty decent, I think it could have been a lot sharper at times. The times when it does diverge away from the main narrative are good for keeping things fresh, but I unfortunately think they also seem ultimately pointless and take off a bit more steam than they meant to.
But, if you're in the mood for fine acting and a relevant movie about something important, this would be a good pick.
In an unnamed New York investment bank, the majority of the work force are losing their jobs. One of the first to go is risk management executive Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci). Before he's escorted from the building, he hands a USB to analyst Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) asking him to take a look. Sullivan does so and finds that the company's profit margins are superseded by it's debt. It's unsustainable and will dangerously and inevitably lead to a financial collapse.
Margin Call could, comfortably, be described as a zeitgeist film. It addresses the economic crisis at face value and reflects the very financial situation that has affected a lot of people at this time. It isn't a film that bombards you with statistics but plays it from the angle of the people behind the scenes and does it admirably with sharp dialogue; the best of which goes to Irons' CEO when he spouts such choice lines as "The world will always be full of happy f@#ks and sad sacks" or "It's spilt milk under the bridge". There's a ruthlessness involved in big business and this film captures it well. Ultimately, it may all just come down to number crunching but the job that these people do has a direct effect on all of us and in this respect, debutant J.C. Chandor gets his point across. It's an impressive and effective first feature and Chandor makes great use of close-up's on all of his characters. So much so, that every wrinkle, pore and nervous expression is captured - lending the film a real intensity. Across the board, the high-calibre cast are brilliant; how can you go wrong with such talents onscreen when every one of them is given just enough material to sink the their acting chops into? Well, the answer to that is... you can't. And that's what makes this film standout. Don't get me wrong though, this does have it's narrative flaws and despite a very tense opening and consistent display of captivating boardroom meetings and fast, flowing business jargon, it loses it's momentum around the midriff. However, it still packs enough of a punch to see itself through to the end.
A worthy reflection on the current financial times and cutthroat nature of business. This is a film that will appeal to fans of "Glengarry Glen Ross" or the underrated and mostly unseen "Boiler Room". A top quality cast and an excellent directorial debut.
But this isn't news to you.
Not only have your annoying party guests been keeping you well informed on all of the dips in the DOW, but there has also been a slew of popular films regarding the crisis as of late. Films such as 2010?s The Company Men & last year's Larry Crowne have done their best to remind Americans that we as a nation are collectively hurting. While these films use pathos to reach the viewer, others jump right to teasing out the source of the problem. This is evidenced by movies like the Academy Award winning Inside Job, which methodically exposes how an event of this magnitude took place and even dares to point some fingers at those responsible.
These images - in conjunction with those of the occupy movement and various other grassroots organizations - have helped to fashion a modern American narrative of "us vs. them." Us being the typical (predominately caucasian according to these films) middle-class Americans. Them of course being the Wall Street fat cats who relish the thought of extracting every last dime out of John Doe's wallet.
So when last year's Margin Call was making the festival rounds, my mind supposed that it would adhere to this established narrative. I assumed it would feature a wide variety of pallid faces, all donning Valentino suits, concocting new ways of leeching more money out of the masses and consequently knocking over the first of many cards that will soon bring the entire house tumbling down. However, when I finally decided to give it a chance due to its appearance on Netflix, I was startled to find that I had underestimated writer/director J.C. Chandor. Margin Call is an expertly crafted ensemble piece. A nuanced look at a group of individuals standing at the precipice of a meltdown, wholly culpable & regrettably unable to halt the impending catastrophe.
The film follows a rather taut 24-hour period inside a high profile investment firm. When the protege of a recently fired division head makes a discovery that will soon change the company's fate, along with the fate of many others, he quickly informs his superiors. This continues up the ladder until the top brass catch wind & are given the unenviable task of selecting which egg shells to step on next.
Margin Call is an experience that is akin to watching a film about the sinking of the Titanic. But instead of carrying a polyglot community of immigrants & various other people groups, this ship is schlepping around mostly white-collar businessmen. And rather than just 100,000 pounds of steel being dragged down to the bottom of the sea, it is America's financial system. Also, in keeping with the Titanic theme, Chandor shows how various personalities respond to the approaching calamity. There are your Edward Smiths, the captain of the ill-fated cruise liner, who are prepared to go down with the ship if they must. Other men wish only to cut their losses and find the nearest lifeboat. And much like the apocryphal story of the orchestra playing "Nearer my God to Thee" as the ship sank into the Atlantic, some men are seen busy shaving & adjusting their expensive attire as if it were an ordinary day, going about the banalities of everyday life before heading out to face their own music.
Margin Call is not only successful in demonstrating Chandor's filmmaking prowess - which is especially notable since this is his debut feature - but it also features of wide variety of talent including Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Paul Bettany, & Zachary Quinto, who all bring their A game. The dialogue is sharp, well-written, and is given even more power by the actor's body language. Chandor frequently shows these individuals gazing out of their windows at New York as it sleeps. They are silent, crestfallen, and appear to be concurrently wondering, "What have we done?"
While it would be easy to place all of the blame on the shoulders of these bankers, Chandor wisely shows that some of the American public should be held accountable as well. Paul Bettany's character Will Emerson states that in reality, people don't acually want a system in which everyone is treated fairly. In fact, most people play dumb, but they know all too well that the only reason they can afford their luxury cars and gaudy mansions is because certain fingers are tipping the scales in their favor. Bettany's character has the prescience to know that should everything go down the tank, then bankers will surely be crucified. But until then most Americans are content to sit idly by, seldom concerned about the system that allows them to take out mortguages that know they cannot rightfully afford.
This isn't a film that sits easily on the tongue. It deftly dramatizes the crisis, one of the most severe to take place in my lifetime and one that has brought about the ruin of many American families, all while refusing to moralize. This dispassionate approach to a subject so wrought with emotion is quite a marvel, and an essential step toward ameliorating the damage done by the simplistic "us vs. them" narrative that has so consumed the American mind.
A very surprisingly good movie! The movie finds a way to hold the mirror up to our civilization, showing how we are all complicit in a collective 'dream'. The dream is the illusion of easy, risk-managed wealth that the financial markets manufacture, again and again, since the emergence of capital markets 200 years ago, until the illusion morphs overnight into a panic. Reality intervenes, fear takes over, and the 'survivor' is the guy who first reaches the lifeboat. So there are no villains in this movie, just people, richly drawn, beautifully acted characters realized by some of our best actors who relish the
opportunity to show what they can do given a killer script and enough screen time between lines to actually be the people they are portraying.
Although this movie works almost completely without music, the tension is so immense - thanks to the brilliant actors - that one is forced to focus. The performances are top notch. Everyone from Zachary Quinto to Demi Moore brings their A-game. Even supporting characters are oddly fleshed out for a film with such an ensemble cast. Kevin Spacey and Paul Bettany give the performances of their careers, I think. Only the Jeremy Irons character feels a bit over the top, while the rest are truly believable well-rounded depictions. Watch this movie if you want to understand the most accurate depiction so far of the types of characters inside Investment Banks during a scary period.
A respected financial company is downsizing and one of the victims is the risk management division head, who was working on a major analysis just when he was let go. His protégé completes the study late into the night and then frantically calls his colleagues in about the company's financial disaster he has discovered. What follows is a long night of panicked double checking and double dealing as the senior management prepare to do whatever it takes to mitigate the debacle to come even as the handful of conscientious comrades find themselves dragged along into the unethical abyss.
If you're feeling in a "The New Yorker" mood, put on your top hat and monocle and take this for a spin.
Follows the key people at an investment bank, over a 24-hour period, during the early stages of the financial crisis.
A cast of middling to great actors all give excellent performances in a movie so terse and devoid of histrionics that it feels almost like a documentary. Taking place over one long dark night of the soul, a group of Wall Street suits, ranging from peons to muckety-mucks, come to the slow realization that their company is about to fold and that the only way to stem the blood flow is to liquidate most of the company's assets, thereby setting off the market crash that they know will bring the global economy down low. The various characters have greater to lesser feelings of guilt about this -- Jeremy Irons and Paul Bettany get a couple of dog-eat-dog speeches, while Kevin Spacey and Zachary Quinto serve as the film's moral conscious -- but really no one person's opinion matters much in the face of a steam engine charging out of control.
"Margin Call" takes a very resigned tone to the whole episode. It doesn't really ask its audience to leap to their feet in rage at the way the casual actions of a few can so seriously harm the many, but rather to simply accept that the disgustingly rich will always be rich at the sake of those who are not. The consolation is that these disgustingly rich people don't seem especially happy or fulfilled; the strive for material wealth seems to lead nowhere but to a strive for even more material wealth. That that kind of lifestyle leaves people hollowed out is made abundantly clear in the film's final image.
Spacey, Jeremy Irons and Penn Badgely are all superb.
I watched Wall Street for the first time not long ago, and I felt underwhelmed. It just didn't resonate with me. Margin Call did. It's an intelligent, "financial thriller" that makes a bunch of Wall St. jargon feel relatable and weaves a tight, suspenseful story...despite the fact that we already know how it's going to end.
Margin Call is a "ripped from the headlines" thriller done right. Sure, the perils of the financial market are a hot button topic these days, but there's a good movie here that has a lot more going for it than just being topical. Great cast, solid script, recommended.