Margin Call - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Margin Call Reviews

Page 1 of 99
Super Reviewer
March 8, 2012
What a gripping, thought-provoking drama this is, with a very careful pace and an intelligent script that relies on a sharp cast and compelling dialogue to depict with a fascinating, acute realism the 24 hours prior to the financial crisis of 2008 at an investment firm.
Super Reviewer
July 13, 2015
Owing a huge deal to David Mamet and his cunning, no nonsense, hyper realistic dialogue; first time writer-director J. C Chandor weaves an equally engrossing character driven exploration of capitalist excesses. A top notch cast that uses Chandor's words as fists in the struggle to remain in their unnamed company, which resemblances the extinct Lehman Brothers and the causes that led to its downfall. Especial mention to the almost reptilian-like head honcho of the firm, an impeccable and sinister Jeremy Irons.
Super Reviewer
½ November 27, 2012
A re-telling of the 2008 financial crisis that casts it as Greek tragedy and very nearly respects the three classical unities, covering one main action (the collapse of this firm's solubility), one main physical space (the office, though it does branch out a little, to a car, a bar and a porch), and lasting not more than 24 hours. The ensemble cast is excellent, the mood is dark, the events are totally believable, the stakes are high, and on top of all that, there's a speech that, in my opinion, supplants Gordon Gecko's "Greed is good" in Oliver Stone's Wall Street, which I watched after this and found lacking in comparison. One of the more underrated films of the past few years - hard-hitting, essential viewing.
Super Reviewer
April 11, 2011
"I liked the movie. I thought the cast was excellent as well as most of the acting. I think some characters were not needed (cough, cough, Penn Badgley). I also thought the film was extremely boring at times. I only saw the movie for the cast and wanted to see them all act together. I think they all did a great job. The story is interesting, but it really starts losing steam quite fast. It's not something I would see again."
Super Reviewer
½ December 24, 2011
Great actors, decent plot, but I would not classify this movie as a "thriller." It was interesting, but I found myself waiting for something thrilling to happen, and it never did. It was, however, very intriguing for the most part. Unfortunately, it seems to all fizzle at the end. Another movie where they weren't sure how to end it?? Hate that....
Super Reviewer
November 23, 2012
Sam Rogers: This is what the beginning of a fire sale looks like. 

"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.
Super Reviewer
½ October 21, 2011
Solid performances from a stellar cast highlight this well time and well meaning docudrama. Set over the course of 24 very taut hours, the film follows an entry level analyst at an investment firm who stumbles upon some info that could lead to the downfall of his company What makes it really relevant is that it is set on the eve of the actual 2008 financial crisis, thus this offers a compelling scenario as to how the actual events might have gone down.

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.
Super Reviewer
October 7, 2012
Are you feeling the pinch of our current economic crisis? Are you angry at the investment bankers that have put us all in a precarious financial position? If so, you may find a dramatisation of the operations and swindling of these high-flying executives of particular interest. Writer-director J.C. Chandor seems to and has his finger firmly on the pulse when conveying the enormity of greed and dishonesty in corporate business.
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.
Super Reviewer
September 26, 2012
Have you been to a dinner party recently & overheard somebody begin a sentence with, "well in this economy..."? Of course you have. As long as we live in economically tough times, there will remain a gaggle of pompous oafs ready to wax eloquently about it. This is not to say the problems aren't serious. They are. The collapse of the housing bubble, the shuffling of toxic assets, and the failure of financial service firms such as Lehman Brothers due to cosmetic accounting and the such, has severely crippled the American economy.

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.
Super Reviewer
½ November 20, 2011
Be first. Be smarter. Or cheat.

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.
Super Reviewer
October 20, 2011
Kudos all around. Somehow, a movie that takes place within the offices of a financial institution turns out to be gripping, fun, educational, and kind of awesome. It's the simmering drama that you want to keep going so that you can follow the characters further into their futures.

If you're feeling in a "The New Yorker" mood, put on your top hat and monocle and take this for a spin.
Super Reviewer
½ April 15, 2012
Incredible cast, amazing script and a poignant story. Full review later.
Super Reviewer
April 12, 2012
A solid and very smart drama with honorable intentions of humanizing both the people inhabiting the bank headquarters and the people that they service. This movie is not as accessible as it should have been, especially as our collective memory of the 2008 situation fades away. The underlying context of a gas price crisis, high mortgage default rates, and a bursted housing price bubble are not mentioned. All we know is that the "formula" the banks used is wrong. People familiar enough with the crisis know what that formula was, why it was trusted and used, and why it was only widely realized to be wrong at that particular time, but if they don't already know, a viewer is forced to just shrug at the jargon.
Super Reviewer
January 31, 2012
Tightly paced drama of the scheming and inattention that lead to the financial crisis only fails with an less than fulfilling conclusion. Fine acting from the entire cast.
Super Reviewer
February 20, 2012
'Margin Call' is an engrossing drama that immediately starts off with an enticing premise and swift conflict, but seems to slow to a less interesting pace once the film hits the 45 minute mark. The actors keep the slow pace very much afloat and really make the film a solid watch. Every part of the ensemble cast was great. The script may be emotionless and somber but the dialogue is top notch and seems to deserve its Oscar. 'Margin Call' is not a film for the faint of heart, but those willing to wade through the sobriety may be throughly surprised by the film's entertainment value.
Super Reviewer
February 13, 2012
"Be first. Be smarter. Or cheat."

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.
Super Reviewer
February 6, 2012
'Margin Call'. A fascinating look inside the world of a large investment firm that completely unravels over the course of a day. Filled with astounding moments, decisions and insights into that evil little thing called money, but sadly, it suffers from uneven pacing.

Spacey, Jeremy Irons and Penn Badgely are all superb.
Super Reviewer
January 28, 2011
A tumultuous two days at a massive investment firm begins with mass firings and a disquieting discovery and ends with a burgeoning worldwide financial disaster.

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.
Super Reviewer
½ December 30, 2011
The most explosivey entertaining film of 2011. One of the year`s best pictures. An exhilerating knockout of a film., it has a lasting effect long after its over. An electrifying, honest, and utterly brilliant movie that thrills you with sweep and implication. A taunt, stylish, gritty, wildly compelling and truly unforgettable piece of work. A groundbreaking and superbly real movie full of dept and is extreamly story driven with characters who have to make choices whether right or wrong. The best Wall Street movie ever made. A strong and fierce film debut by Director, JC Chandor, who possiably crafts the finest American film of the year. It`s wickedly well-crafted and insanely well-performend by it`s astonishing all-star cast. Kevin Spacey is mesmerizing. Jeremy Irons is brilliant. Paul Bettany is excellent. Zachary Quinto and Penn Badgley are sensational. Simon Baker is terrific. Stanley Tucci is fantastic.
Super Reviewer
½ December 25, 2011
A riveting, memorable drama concerning a "what if?" scenario of the economic recession of 2008, and the 24-hr period in which a firm tries to prepare for the inevitable collapse. Thanks to a stellar cast across the board, sharp dialogue, and assured, realistic plotting, this movie remains phenomenal pace-wise and tone-wise throughout. There is an imminent sense of despair, and every character's motives are handled and presented in a realized, capable manner. The message of the movie will stick in your mind for a long time to come. The greedy get more money in the end, but they will meet their day, and for those that get away with it, they will have to battle with the people they screwed over for the rest of their lives. A remarkable picture, and definitely one of the top films of the year, and one that absolutely deserves a view, especially in this sensitive economic time, it connects with its audience exceptionally well.
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