Margin Call * * * *

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Director: J.C. Chandor.
Screenplay: J.C. Chandor.
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Zachary Quinto, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, Penn Badgley, Mary McDonnell, Aasif Mandvi, Ashley Williams, Susan Blackwell.

Are you feeling the pinch of our current economic crisis? Are you angry at the investment wankers bankers that have put us all in a precarious financial position? If so, you may find a dramatisation of the operations and swindling of these high-flying executives of particular interest. Writer-director J.C. Chandor seems to and has his finger firmly on the pulse when conveying the enormity of greed and dishonesty in corporate business.

In an unnamed New York investment bank, the majority of the work force are losing their jobs. One of the first to go is risk management executive Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci). Before he’s escorted from the building, he hands a USB to analyst Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) asking him to take a look. Sullivan does so and finds that the company’s profit margins are superseded by it’s debt. It’s unsustainable and will dangerously and inevitably lead to a financial collapse.

Margin Call could, comfortably, be described as a zeitgeist film. It addresses the economic crisis at face value and reflects the very financial situation that has affected a lot of people at this time. It isn’t a film that bombards you with statistics but plays it from the angle of the people behind the scenes and does it admirably with sharp dialogue; the best of which goes to Irons’ CEO when he spouts such choice lines as “The world will always be full of happy fucks and sad sacks” or “It’s spilt milk under the bridge“. There’s a ruthlessness involved in big business and this film captures it well. Ultimately, it may all just come down to number crunching but the job that these people do has a direct effect on all of us and in this respect, debutant J.C. Chandor gets his point across. It’s an impressive and effective first feature and Chandor makes great use of close-up’s on all of his characters. So much so, that every wrinkle, pore and nervous expression is captured – lending the film a real intensity. Across the board, the high-calibre cast are brilliant; how can you go wrong with such talents onscreen when every one of them is given just enough material to sink the their acting chops into? Well, the answer to that is… you can’t. And that’s what makes this film standout. Don’t get me wrong though, this does have it’s narrative flaws and despite a very tense opening and consistent display of captivating boardroom meetings and fast, flowing business jargon, it loses it’s momentum around the midriff. However, it still packs enough of a punch to see itself through to the end.

A worthy reflection on the current financial times and cutthroat nature of business. This is a film that will appeal to fans of “Glengarry Glen Ross” or the underrated and mostly unseen “Boiler Room“. A top quality cast and an excellent directorial debut.

Mark Walker

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41 Responses to “Margin Call * * * *”

  1. Great write up man.

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  2. Good review Mark. I really enjoyed the film . It did remind me of Boiler room, Vin Deisel’s best performance to date

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  3. I have this in the Netflix queue to watch. As I’ve watched these, the documentaries and recreations, I usually get quite upset. And I have little sympathy or patience for those who’ve put us in this mess. Thanks for the review.

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    • I’m exactly the same Michael. Excuse my language but these people make my f@#king blood boil. That being said though, this film does paint them in a human light and not all of them are greed infused. Still, at the end of the day, they are all part if it in my eyes.

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  4. Excellent review! I like the fact that you called it a “zeitgeist film” — I do think our belated rage against the bankers who eviscerated the economy is an important part of our era. Based on this post, I’m on the fence about whether this is my cup of tea. Great cast — I especially like Kevin Spacey and Stanley Tucci. And now I’m curious about Boiler Room.

    <a href="http://eclecticbookandmovies.blogspot.comhttp://eclecticbookandmovies.blogspot.com

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    • Thanks! Yeah, I really liked it and it’s great to see that someone is tackling this material. It’s been a long time since I seen Boiler Room myself but I remember really liking that too. It’s worth checking out. It has Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi and Ben Affleck all before they made big names for themselves.

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  5. Nice review. I thought the cast was very good but I didn’t understand a single thing. I’m an idiot when it comes to economics.

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    • Haha! Don’t be too hard on yourself man. πŸ˜‰ Yeah, I really liked this. Some narrative strands could have been tighter but overall I was gripped by it. I didn’t expect much but it delivered well.

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  6. Paragraph Film Reviews Says:

    Thought this was OK, but only really came to life when the big actors got to do some big acting for me. The constant references to how much bankers get paid got very tedious, very quickly. We get it, they’re overpaid!

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    • It certainly did have it’s flaws but I’m with you on the acting. Once they got a chance to run with it, everyone was really good. Irons was a big standout for me and I don’t normally like him.

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  7. Nice review of a movie which I really enjoyed, especially with that cast. I’ve seen both Boiler Room (rewatched it fairly recently and still think it’s great) and Glengarry, which are movies everyone should see.

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    • Glad to hear you’re onboard with all three of them Nostra. I’d like to see Boiler Room again but I have good memories of it. As for Glengarry, I find that a masterpiece and this was a great film too. It’s seems to have been passed over by many people though.

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  8. Ahahaha, I love how you said ‘wankers’ Mark, you shouldn’t have crossed it out as that’s what they are! The financial jargon gets overwhelming at times but like you said, it’s got enough punch that delivers the message home. The performances are ace, I think Bettany is quite a scene stealer here, though normally I’m not a huge fan of his. Great review!

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    • That’s exactly what they are Ruth. I detest these assholes and corporate business’ they operate behind. I should have left it in πŸ˜‰ Really liked the film though and I actually enjoyed all the jargon. It was Irons that stood out for me and I’m not his biggest fan either.

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      • I don’t blame you Mark, they’re quite despicable aren’t they? I mean it was mind-boggling what these young yuppies spend their money on, the way Bettany’s character described.

        Btw, the first time I heard the word ‘wanker’ was on a British rom-com TV show ‘Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married.’ Yes you guessed it, GB had a part in it when he was just starting out. He played a real cad Gus and that’s the term Lucy’s friends use for him. Here’s a clip just for the fun of it πŸ™‚

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      • Lol. Yeah, it’s a commonly used word over these parts. Hey, Butler looks really young in that. I’ve never even heard of this show.

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      • He..he.. only die hard fans would’ve heard about him on that show πŸ˜‰ I actually ordered the DVD from all the way in New Zealand as that’s the only online store that had it then. It’s a cheeky show, some of the British slang got lost on me though. Yeah, GB must’ve been only in his late 20s when he did that show. Unlike Chuck er Keanu, I think he doesn’t age as well, I mean he’s about 10 yrs younger than him but GB looks older!

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      • Haha. You nearly gave in to Chuck there.
        Yeah, that’s that rugged Scots looks. Exposed to all the elements, excessive alcohol consumption and a bad diet. Life takes it’s toll on the old Scots ye know? πŸ˜‰

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  9. Good write-up, Mark. This sounds like it might be an interesting film to look at… though I’m not sure I want to delve too deep into the economic crisis while it’s still going on. πŸ˜€

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    • Thanks Morgan. It’s a good film and I think there’s no time like the present to be viewing it. Mainly it benefits from a great ensemble and is surprisingly gripping.

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  10. Awesome review! I should finally watch this one, it has such an amazing cast and the fact you wrote that the fans of Glengary Glen Ross should like it only gets me more excited.

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    • Thanks Sati. It’s certainly nowhere near as good as Glengarry Glen Ross. I rate that very highly but this is still a competent film thats mainly dialogue driven and good actors to pull it off.

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  11. filmfellahenry Says:

    Glad you liked margin call, i too enjoyed it. Its always hard to accurately judge films that predominantly rely on current events for their effectiveness, however i think you’ve given a fair appraisal. For me, the biggest issue i had with the film was spotting the edge line of Kevin Spacey’s bald cap. Nice work

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    • Cheers Henry! Yeah, I liked it but you could be right there. It’s power probably lay in the frustration and anger of the viewer regarding the current events. And I couldn’t help but notice Spacey’s bald cap myself. It’s was pretty bad wasn’t it? πŸ˜‰

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  12. This is the kind of script I love. Dense, intelligent… something out of the 70’s almost. The Academy recognized it with a nominnation which was cool. Enjoyed this movie a lot.

    Don’t like Irons? Ever seen Reversal of Fortune? I highly recommend it if you haven’t. One of my favorite performances ever with Irons as the creepy Claus von Bulow. Keep an eye out for a young Felicity Huffman.

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    • Did this receive recognition at the Oscars? I wasn’t aware of that. As for Irons, it’s not that I don’t think he can act. He’s certainly capable but I just don’t take to him. If truth be told, he gives me the creeps a bit. I have seen Reversal Of Fortune and, again, he was admittedly superb.

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  13. This looks great, with a terrific cast. Looking forward for the DVD release.

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  14. after your comment I thought I would check yours out, I didn’t know you had reviewed it but i don’t think I was around blogging at the beginning of October sorry! A fair score my friend.

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