As everyone probably knows by now, the people in power on Wall Street or any other financial hotspot around the world are not to be trusted.  They take gambles with other people’s money, spending recklessly, always chasing more, more, more.  And another thing everyone knows is that when the shit hits the fan in the world of finance, the numbers get really big, really fast.

In Margin Call, the shit does indeed hit the fan.  On a day when human resources are making mass layoffs at an investment bank, the sacking of Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci) will trigger a series of events with potentially dire consequences for the company involved.  As Dale is leaving the building, he hands a memory stick to Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto), warning him to be careful with the information contained on it.  After working late that night, Peter looks at the data on the stick, and is shocked with what he finds.  He calls his friend Seth (Penn Badgley), and senior salesman Will Emerson (Paul Bettany) back to the office to look over the numbers, and all three realise that the data shows that the company is working with numbers that don’t add up, and one step in the wrong direction could bring it to its knees.  This revelation will take things right to the top, and force the men in charge to make decisions that will lead to more people losing their jobs, and the reputation of the company taking a massively negative hit.

First-time writer/director J.C. Chandor has assembled an excellent case, with Kevin Spacy, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore and Simon Baker also on board.  He’s produced a tight script too, finding drama and tension in what could be very dry and complex subject matter.  Every cast member gets their chance to shine, and all of them give strong performances, making Margin Call a greatly enjoyable movie to watch.  The direction is unfussy, which gives the film a style that in some ways renders it timeless.  As the man in charge, Jon Tuld (Irons) explains to Spacey’s character Sam Rogers, the financial crisis they face has been faced before, as he reels off year after year when the money men lost control and everyone suffered.  This film is set in the recent past, but could have been set in the 80s, the 20s or any other time when the bottom collapsed out of finance.

If I was to get pretentious about Margin Call, I’d call it a proper movie.  There’s no flashy editing, over-the-top acting or action, and there’s certainly no CGI or 3D.  Instead it is a well acted, well directed and well written drama, portraying events that could in theory be happening every day in the current financial climate.

David Dougan


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