Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Margin Call

A Wall Street investment firm is cleaning house and when one of the axed, a research analyst, is stepping onto the elevator with his box of personal belongings, he hands a jump drive to a talented underling and tells him to be careful. Working late into the evening, the junior analyst puts the final pieces of his ex-boss's puzzle together and realizes that the firm's business model will imminently crash. He calls in his superiors, thus beginning an all night session of dealings among sharks deciding who will get tossed to the wolves and how they will fleece their customers to save their own bankrolls. "Margin Call" is the debut film from writer director J.C. Chandor and serves as a microcosm of the start of the 2008 financial crisis and the ruthless and selfish tactics taken by those involved. The film contains a marvelous cast playing characters devoid of humanity, or swiftly on their way to losing it. I really liked the work of Zachary Quinto playing the junior analyst who has a background in rocket science who works on Wall Street because the pay is better. Kevin Spacey is excellent as well, again playing a corporate type, but not the arrogant and calculated one we would expect. Paul Bettany and Stanley Tucci are fine as senior analysts who possibly regret their career choices and Jeremy Irons and especially Simon Baker are great as callous higher ups. I found "Margin Call" to be underwritten and too obvious, particularly in an absurd speech by Tucci where he lauds his previous profession or when Bettany exclaims, "Fuck normal people!" in another. Thinking on this film, "The Ides of March" came to mind, another knockout cast in a film dealing with a relevant topic and a lackluster script. I began to wonder, where should the line between a good film and not be drawn when this is the case? Here the cast sells it.