This is an engaging look behind the curtain at the people, the decisions, and the attitudes towards both, that led to that fateful day in which economics became headline news the worldover.
From first time writer-director JC Chandor, this office-set drama pulls together an all-star cast. Opening on a day in which said firm is performing a hardline cull of its staff, we meet Stanley Tucci’s risk management bod, a long-time server who ruthlessly gets the chop. As he’s frog-marched out of the building he’s worked in for years, he hands a USB to one of his underlings, played by Zachary Quinto (who also co-produces), and warns him to ‘be careful’.
And so he should because the information contained within reveals the company is headed for oblivion with a stack of assets that are going to become worthless, the economic fallout from this sucking the firm under and out of existence. What follows is the reporting of this information to a variety of increasingly- more senior bosses (Paul Bettany, Kevin Spacey, Simon Baker and finally Jeremy Irons) culminating in the decision that kick-started the events about which we are still feeling the consequences.
A fictionalised take on real events, Margin Call is not about complex numbers and figures, it doesn’t drown the audience in sub-prime shorthand, but rather focuses on the people behind the scenes, the decisions they made and the reasons for them. In the end, self-preservation wins out, damn the competition and damn the consequences. As firm boss John Tuld (a deliciously savage, sinister and cut-throat Irons) says: “there are three ways to make a living in this business – be first, be smarter, or cheat.” By his own admission, it has not been his smarts that got him to where he is.
Despite the engaging drama though there are slightly hokey moments to be found. Spacey’s Sam Rogers is a money-man who is starting to see that he wants more from his life, but his emotional thaw is viewed through the cheesy token of his pains over the death of his dog. There is also a slightly stagey feel to the proceedings too, but with a cast that shines this brightly – everyone here performs at the top of their game – these are minor quibbles in a film to relish. The human face of the economic crisis, it is intelligently written, superbly performed, and insightful.
Starring: Simon Baker, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore, Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons | 15 | 106 mins
Margin Call is out now through Stealth Media.