Margin Call (2011)

Margin Call (2011) – I think Oliver Stone’s Wall Street is overrated and its 2010 sequel is deservedly forgotten two short years later. So what is the great Wall Street movie? Not strictly speaking a true story but very much based on the events that unfolded at Goldman Sachs during the 2008 financial crises, Margin Call may be the great Wall Street movie. I don’t know much of financial matters but I read the news enough to know that greed and speculation are two of the main factors that lead to the economic shit pile we are wallowing in today, and Margin Call depicts that environment better than any film I can recall seeing.

The film starts with the all-too-familiar scene of layoffs taking place. Some eighty percent of the risk assessment department of an unnamed investment firm loses their job. Among the downsized is Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci). Due to his being privy to much of the company’s information he is not only terminated but escorted from the building. He does get to say goodbye to his underlings Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) and Seth Bregman (Penn Badgley). He tells Peter to look over some numbers and to “be careful.” Peter does and learns that the mortgage-backed securities the company has been heavily dealing with are worthless and could easily cost the company more than it has. He alerts his boss Will Emerson (Paul Bettany) who alerts his boss Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey) who alerts his bosses Jared Cohen (Simon Baker) and Sarah Robertson (Demi Moore) who alert the big boss John Tuld (Jeremy Irons).

That covers most of the plot. The movie is made up largely of discussions of what should be done, what will be done, and what the hell it all means… and it’s riveting. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and deservingly so. The film is sharply written by writer-director J.C. Chandor and excellently performed by a top-notch ensemble cast. Financial situations can seem a little dry to some but this movie wrings them for every ounce of tension that they are worth. It kind of makes a good companion film to the HBO movie Too Big to Fail, which takes a more historical perspective on the financial crisis. Margin Call goes more for the conceptual and the personal, and is stronger for it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: