Thursday, 28 March 2013

FILM: Margin Call (8/10)

Why did I watch it?
Having never heard of this film before, I saw it advertised and liked the look of the ensemble cast and hoped the script could make the subject matter interesting enough.

What's it all about?
Set in the weeks prior to the 2008 global financial crisis, Margin Call takes place during a 36 hour period at an unnamed investment bank. Risk analyst Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) completes the work of his former boss (Stanley Tucci) and realises that the recent volatility in the market falls outside the data applied to the firms heavily leveraged investments, meaning that over the time the firm holds such investments, losses will be generated in excess of the firm's worth. Sullivan passes this news upwards through the management chain (Paul Bettany, Kevin Spacey, Simon Baker, Demi Moore) culminating in a middle of the night emergency board meeting with CEO John Tuld (Jeremy Irons) to discuss the options to save the firm. 

Should you watch it?
If you have any interest in a smart and tense drama dealing with the financial crisis and featuring a first rate cast, then yes. First time director and writer J.C. Chandor delivers a gripping, tense film with Academy nominated screenplay, told largely over the hours of a single New York night.

The majority of the 'action' takes place in dimly lit offices, often lit solely by the banks of computer monitors flashing with the doomed data, with the neon skyline of New York as a backdrop through the office windows. It's a setting that reflects the severity of the situation, once aware of the issue no-one ever suggests calling it a night. The sense of importance is also highlighted by the manner in which the disaster-in-the-making is passed up through the chain, with each manager, head of department, or senior executive, only able to pass it on until the CEO choppers in at 3 AM to rule on the matter.

Justifiably, the banking industry has been criticised and penalised for the greed that led to the 2008 crisis but interestingly, despite the firm making a decision that will ultimately lead to the crisis, Chandor gives a voice to the industry to justify their greed and existence. Will Emerson (Bettany) argues that the bankers greed is only able to exist due to the demands of 'real people' to own things they cannot afford, while CEO Tuld (Irons) is considerably more blasé, stating that the downturn is simply part of the economic cycle and even that there will simply be more starving dogs than fat cats for a while. The narrative is balanced however, with Sam Rogers (Spacey) and several others voicing their discontent at the irresponsibility about to be shown by Tuld and Cohen (Baker), while scapegoat Sarah Robertson (Moore) goes down declaring that her warnings were not listened to.

'How many zeros?!'
A great cast, an interesting subject and great film making, Margin Call is a must for those wanting a film to test the old grey matter.

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