Margin Call (2011) Review | Jamie Daily

Margin Call (2011)
84th Academy Awards 2012
5/5 Stars
Nominated for 1 award.
Nominated for Best Original Screenplay (J.C. Chandor).
Watched September 5, 2013.


Whether or not technical jargon or financial speak is your thing, your forte, your niche–Margin Call is a thriller without ghosts and guns but with speech, money, and meetings.  What The Ides of March is to politics, Margin Call is to banking, but with a twist.


It is 2008, roughly 24 hours before the entire US financial system went in the tank.  It opens upon an amazing cast playing bankers within an institution roughly based on Lehman Brothers.  Over eighty percent of the employees are let go in one day, including head of the risk department, Stanley Tucci.  As he enters an elevator with a box of his possessions, he hands his employee Peter (Zachary Quinto) a flash drive with the words “Be careful.”


Peter, who is essentially a rocket scientist but got into finance for the paychecks, takes to the task immediately and discovers something that causes the entire upper management to panic and hold meeting after meeting in the wee hours of the morning.


I wasn’t able to understand the technical jargon all that much, which is why I appreciate that the CEOs don’t really comprehend it either, and therefore as Peter continually has to explain himself on more and more simple levels, I came to understand what was happening slowly as the movie went on.  Their stock was essentially worthless.  The entire system was going to come crashing down, and if they did not act, they would lose everything.


It is a battle between money and morality.  Do you risk losing all of your customers or do you sit by and watch everything fall away?  It is a quick, simple decision that affects the entire economy.


There was a lot about this film that I loved, and not very much that I disliked.  The cast is out of this world, including appearances by Kevin Spacey, Paul BettanyJeremy Irons, and Demi Moore.  Even though the lowest representative on the totem pole makes a quarter of a million dollars a year, his character represent the every man–obsessed with money, how to make it and continue gaining it–and how the crashing economy results in him bawling in a toilet stall because he has lost everything.  Those with higher positions make big bucks and earn promotions, while those on the selling floor are let go the minute they get rid of most of their stocks.


Besides some quiet audio and perhaps a rather complicated subject for those with no background in finance, there are very few weak points in this film.  I found it interesting, sad, and although I already knew what the outcome must be, it was still nail biting.


If you have the patience for well written films with zero explosions, I recommend this one be moved to the top of your list.  I really enjoyed it.

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