Margin Call

What do you do when you discover you have only twenty four hours to save the world; or at least save your job and the company you  work for? That is the question that runs through the mind of the junior risk management analyst, played by Zachary Quinto when he finishes working on data given to him by his boss who was made redundant earlier that day.

First time director (and writer) J.C. Chandor does a first class job in getting the audience to watch and engage with a plot and character ensemble which would not seem, on the face of it, to be likely contenders for our time. Who wants to sit through may be 90 to 120 minutes of an economic train wreck. Strangely enough that’s exactly what you do.

Probably the first reason for the movie’s success is the cast. You just know that any story line with Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons and Paul Brittany involved has to be of some worth. The performances by Zachary Quinto, Simon Baker and Penn Badgley add to the offering.

Quinto’s character never fully catches up emotionally with the events of the day/night; he may have been the one with the brains to recognise what was happening but he is forced by circumstances to stand and watch as events unfold around him, with his superiors working to devise a method of saving what they can of the bank. Bettany plays the seeming amoral banker who knows where exactly every penny of his $3.5m salary for the previous year went. Apart from the “hookers and entertainment” which are tax deductible we learn that he made sure his parents were looked after. Discussing his salary on the roof ledge with two of his juniors we see how despite the complexity of the situation and the almost theoretical nature of their business there is a human aspect to what they do.

Throughout the movie whenever the human aspect or impact comes to the fore we see a group of people trying to rationalise what they do and the impact it has, they know that morally what they do and have done is questionable to many, but they console themselves with the view that they are only meeting the needs of the market and are in essence only serving their betters. As we listen to this rationalisation we are left to wonder if they actually believe what they are saying or is it an attempt to excuse themselves.

The offerings by Jeremy Irons and Kevin Spacey are what make this movie stand out from a delivery perspective. Their performances bring out what is needed in the others and carry the story through with a sense of calm urgency. The script lines they are given add to the characters, we can identify them as personae dramatis in the bigger story unfolding on our news screens daily and certainly not empathise with them.

Chandor took what could have been a dreary dramatization of evens and delivered a well scripted, well delivered vision of the banking chaos which, although was set inside the banking world, very much had the outsider’s view.  The script contains some real gems, not least of all his attempts to explain the crisis without actually causing us to slip in to a coma.

Rating 8/10 = watch it, you will be pleasantly surprised.

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