Sometimes the strangest things in life end up becoming the best fodder for films. Since the first image flickered with life on-screen, movies have commented on politics, government squabbles, war, famine, Hollywood itself, etc. All of it has been caught by the watchful eye of directors looking to make a statement, whether it’s subtle or blunt. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, the pandemic was a breeding ground for ideas, but I can honestly say I never expected a director to watch the GameStop squeeze in later 2021 and go, “That gives me an idea…”
Does the lead of “Trader” have a name? No. Kimberly-Sue Murray leads the way in “Trader,” a film shot in the apartment basement of a building with Murray as the only person we’ll see for the next 84 minutes. She lets us know what kind of person she is in the opening minutes as she scams an elderly person over the phone out of their credit card and personal information so she can dump some funds into her bank account. What does she want to do with that money? Stonking some tendies to the moon and back (Sorry, r/WallStreetBets lingo). I’m sure that sounds like a boring premise to some, but I assure you it is not. Murray, who delivers a tour de force performance, carries this film on her back as she learns about stock trading, learns about options trading, and attempts to hedge her way into a cutthroat world that may just end up eating her alive, unless she bites first.
Murray may just be the sole reason we watch “Trader.” It’s not a character study, but what we get out of her character is personal financial determination mixed with sociopathic tendencies. She’s a smart cookie, and will possibly break your arm for doubting it. She eventually makes her way through the message boards and connects with a broker named Bob who plays the stock market for social media clout and, of course, the millions of dollars. Murray’s character aches for that life and that luxury, but as one person in a basement on her lonesome, she has to make due with what she’s given. She’s been given Bob the Broker and will lie her way to a seat at the broker table.
Throughout the film, we’re told through discussions with Bob that Murray used to be a victim of sex trafficking, but can we believe that? Most of the time we see her lying, even to Bob, so when she does cry and seemingly stares off into the distance with all the seriousness of the world in her eyes, we have to believe her. But it’s that same kind of personality that she uses to fool others, whether it’s the geriatric at the beginning with his credit card in hand or Bob teasing a better life. One of the more fun aspects of the film is attempting to piece together who Murray’s character is and isn’t.
Even if you know nothing about GameStop or stock trading, “Trader” is a low-budget techno-thriller with plenty on its mind and plenty more to say. Murray gives the best performance of the year, so far, with equal amounts of pain and pleasure during the entire process. Murray’s character is physically, mentally and emotionally working through a past that’s never revealed, but watching her kick and crawl through the boy’s game at Wall Street is an absolute delight. If you’re lucky enough to see this on a streaming service or anywhere in the future, give it a watch and prepare to be blown away by its mesmerizing simplicities.