By Guest Contributor Tim Hoar
The intelligent Margin Call belongs at the pointy end of 2012 releases. Despite the fact that this is barely more than a series of business meetings, the film is never anything less ultra engaging. This can be attributed to a wonderful script that carries the ebb and flow of these befuddling financial discussions really well. The performances from everyone are fine, especially from Zachary Quinto (and his eyebrows) and Simon Baker. This film is highly recommended to all, a wonderful examination of the disconnect of modern corporate finance, and its impact on the rest of us.
Why, the global financial crisis, of course. The film stars everyone. Well almost everyone – Paul Bettany, Stanley Tucci, Demi Moore, Jeremy Irons, Kevin Spacey, that weedy dude from Gossip Girl, Zachary Quinto, and Simon Baker.
What’s it about?
Margin Call is an inside look at the collapse of an investment bank (which surely is based on Lehman Brothers) that triggers the GFC. As the film begins, long term employees are being fired en masse, tramping out of the building with their belongings in boxes. One of those fired employees is Eric Dale, played by Stanley Tucci, head of risk management at the firm. Just as he is leaving, he entrusts Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) with a USB stick and warns him to “be careful”. What he finds on the stick leads to all night meetings and the downfall of the corporation. The film follows these meetings throughout the one night as the true scale of the problem and its wider ramifications become shockingly clear.
Is it any good?
It certainly is. Very good in fact. It is sometimes hard to make a good film about major contemporary events – the Iraq war is a prime example. This is definitely a notable exception. Who would have thought that a slow burning film, almost entirely showcasing people sitting around talking about finance, could be so enthralling? The fact that it succeeds is owed in large part to one of the best ensemble performances of recent years. Everyone is excellent in this, many in career best form.
Margin Call is a brilliant window into the cold, callous nature of big business and the inherently amoral pursuit of profit at all costs.
Margin Call is a brilliant window into the cold, callous nature of big business and the inherently amoral pursuit of profit at all costs. The film, and its dense conversations, can be a little confusing at times. But much like David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, this brilliantly illustrates the sheer disconnect of this vile world from regular life. As one character puts it, “It’s just money. It’s made up.”
Tim Hoar can be found musing on classic cinema on his blog: Not Now, I’m Drinking a Beer and Watching a Movie.
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