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Margin Call

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By Clint Morris

”Margin Call” may be the wallet-creased, grime-doused rubber of ‘Rooted Wall Street worker’ movies, but its lack of bells, whistles and oomphy climax might actually be its greatest asset.

If only it were a documentary, it might’ve even found an audience.

Much more concerned with the people behind the bean counters than the numbers themselves, and determined to put a human face on the global financial crisis from a couple of years back, director J.C Chandon’s film shares more in common – despite the setting – with a grief-centric pics like ”In the Bedroom” or ”The Fisher King” than a ”Wall Street” or ”Boiler Room”.

It’s that human plight, the one requiring financial workers survive the harsh reality that faced many a Wall Street worker a couple of years back, that provides the zingers here. There’s no Gordon Gecko vomiting cocky cool speak, just tired, perturbed and concerned everymen trying to dig themselves out of a black hole. And that’s admirable. Maybe not as thrilling, but still admirable.
You see, some of that Hollywood razzle-dazzle found in “Wall Street” might have come in handy in this films latter-half because, honestly, there’s only so long one can sit and watch a bunch of suits staring at monitors mouthing “oh god, we are Fucked”.

Kevin Spacey, playing against type, leads an excellent cast including Zachary Quinto (also one of the films producers), Demi Moore, Jeremy Irons, Paul Bettany, Simon Baker and Stanley Tucci in an intriguing, but sadly not overly suspenseful dollar-drama.
As I spat above, the film may have worked better as a fly on the wall documentary, but ”Margin Call” is still a mostly effective and insightful looksee into one of modern-days great financial frack-ups.

Set over a 24-hour-period in.. well, anytime.. though obviously set in the same world that strained many-a-wallet in 2008, the film centers around a fictional investment bank going through a big fucking brouhaha where the firm is trying to dump its massive exposure to soured mortgage-backed securities in order to save the firm.

Tucci is his usual dependable self as the newly-sacked Eric Dale. On his way out of the building, Dale hands a co-worker, young Peter Sullivan (Quinto of “Star Trek” and “Heroes”) a flash-drive and asks him to “be careful”. Sullivan opens the files within the drive to only discover that Dale had discovered something frightening truths about the way their business was headed. Spacey and Paul Bettany play middle-management types that struggle to take control of the situation, and ultimately sit helplessly as their professional and personal lives crumble around them (Spacey’s character is grieving the loss of his pet dog at the time). Meanwhile, the company bigwigs, played by Irons, Moore and Simon Baker, sit back and wait for the storm to pass. It never does.

If you’ve an interest in the financial market, and of course followed the crisis of ’08, you’ll appreciate this flick. At the same time, those that are familiar with the global financial crisis might nitpick the film’s tendency to blame the whole shit-storm on human error, laziness and poor management. I’m sure Michael Moore would be able to find a few more scapegoats.

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About Caffeinated Clint

Clint is the creator, editor and maintainer of Moviehole.

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