Margin Call

4 Apr

Director: J.C. Chandor

Writer: J.C. Chandor

Stars: Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci and Kevin Spacey

Motion picture rating: R

Runtime: 107 minutes

 

 

I can’t think of any other mainstream movies about the 2008 banking crisis. Arguably Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps covered it, but that was as much about the return of the Gecko. Anyhow, here with Margin Call we are right in the midst of the Wall Street banking failures of 2008. That time when terms such as credit default swaps entered the modern vocabulary. That time when the most recent global credit bubble burst and spewed its toxic contents all over Wall Street.

This film starts with redundancies. Bank staff including Stanley Tucci are told that they are living in ‘extraordinary times’ and about to make a ‘transition’ in their lives. It is a strong jumping off point for the story and the film hardly releases its grip thereafter. Tucci confronts his boss Demi Moore and is commiserated by his colleague Paul Bettany. The bank moves on, but it is clear that big changes are afoot and everyone is twitchy. Soon enough a lowly analyst (Zachary Quinto) discovers the black hole in the bank’s finances and, in essence, in the whole of the global banking system.

Along with Quinto, Tucci, Moore and Bettany are other strong actors including Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons (wonderfully bloodless as the head of the bank). It is a heavyweight cast that was clearly attracted to an excellent story and script. That it’s a first time writer director behind the film is surprising, but congratulations to J.C Chandor for his efforts.

This is a commendable film. It is tense, dark and chilly – akin to the New York cityscape that ominously fills out the background. Although the bankers are dealt with equitably, the self-justifying and defensive line pedalled by them after the crisis is revisited here; that it was greedy consumers living beyond their means that brought the crisis upon themselves. I still find that line hard to swallow and this film has not altered my fundamental view of investment bankers. For me it was their naivety, hubris and wilful ignorance that brought us low.

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