Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Margin Call 2011


With a stellar cast and an incredibly well-written script, Margin Call is an impressive first (feature-length) film by writer/director JC Chandor. Set in the recent past, and covering just over one day in the life of an investment bank (shades of Lehman Brothers), it depicts what may have been one, or many, firm’s part in the financial crash of 2007-08. While there is a decent explanation for how things went so wrong, the story is not necessarily about the ‘how’, but rather the ‘who’. It sheds some light on the characters who are often directly or indirectly responsible in such situations, and why they make the decisions they do.

From the very first scene, the film is like a who’s who of character actors – Stanley Tucci, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Paul Bettany (with an awful accent that veers from British to Australian without warning), Kevin Spacey, Simon Baker (with a very consistent American accent – Bettany, take note!) and Jeremy Irons. Intentionally or unintentionally, the film has a token female (Demi Moore) and a token ethnic presence (Aasif Mandvi) working in Risk Assessment, while the rest of the cast is completely white male. Whether this is or isn't a true depiction of the environment the film is focusing on is not the subject of this review; it is merely an observation.

The film is well-paced and the story utterly gripping. The best thing about the script is that while there is some explanation of the mechanics of the financial world, the terminology is not dumbed down for the viewer - and the audience is expected to have a basic level of intelligence. And in line with that thinking is the characterisation of the key players - no one is made to look like the good guy or the bad guy. There are no clear 'villains' - and just about no one is innocent - which makes everyone very human and their actions comprehensible.

Considering the lack of marketing for this film (at least in the UK), it really came as a surprise package. Definitely worth a watch, even if only on DVD.

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