Margin Call

November, 2011, Drama

 

 

 Write/director J.C. Chandor makes his big screen debut with this acidic take on the mentality of the Wall Street bankers much maligned these days for causing the financial collapse which has gripped America over the past 3 years.  While the film will appeal primarily to those who've had some first hand experience with the financial advisors at the center of the movie’s storyline, brilliant ensemble acting and Chandor’s script provide audiences with the best depiction of investment banker mendacity yet to be brought to the screen. The film’s pervasive cynicism is as mesmerizing to watch as it is depressing to contemplate.

 Jeremy Irons, Kevin Spacey, Simon Baker and Paul Brittany play characters from the three levels of senior management at a Wall Street firm which discovers late one night that a computer analysis of the firm’s “risk parameters” indicate a breech, demonstrating that the firm’s traders have exposed the company to excessive leveraging of the its capital in an effort to wring ever larger profits for the owners and the securities salesmen it employs. How will the management deal with this crisis ? In making their decision, how will they treat their subordinates, customers and fellow players in the industry with whom they do business every day?

In scenes which reek of moral rationalization, smug self-satisfaction and naked greed, the management decides to take a course of action which most in the auidence will both recognize and final ethically offensive, even as the firm's C.E.O. (brilliantly played with icy British reserve by Irons) summarizes why the decision is the inevitable result of a free market , entreprenurial  approach to our economy.

Stanley Tucci and  Demi Moore head a first-rate supporting cast in a film which spends its running time much like the "talking head" political programs seen on Sunday morning on netwoork television. While director Chandor's ability to present this material in a visually-interesting way never rises above average, his script lacerates the ethos which has contributed so much to our current recession and his exceptionally talented cast brings the writer's words to life, with devastating effect.

The Verdict? A memorable portrait of voracious financial appeitites, told with lacerating veracity. If you wonder why all those kids are out on the streets protesting, see this movie. 

 

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