Margin Call - Movie Review

  • 12 January 2012

Rating: 4 out of 5

This lucid drama about the start of the current economical collapse is gripping, even if its structure feels stagey: basically a lot of scenes of people talking in offices. But solid performances and an accessible script make it resonate.

When risk-assessment expert Eric (Tucci) is sacked in a wave of downsizing, he gives a file to his employee Peter (Quinto) with the words "be careful". Sure enough, this document suggests an impending apocalypse for the company. So Peter calls in his colleague Seth (Badgley) and they take it to their boss (Bettany), who escalates it upwards over one long night to his boss (Spacey), the top executives (Baker and Moore) and the company owner (Irons). And they make a decision to do something unthinkable.

The point seems to be that greedy people will do whatever it takes to hold on to their money, even if it means sacrificing their most loyal colleagues in the process. And even if it cripples the entire Wall Street system for years to come. Intriguingly, this huge story plays out in the intensely personal actions of these terrified men (and one woman), all worrying about what it means for them. And of course, the top dogs will manage to make money out of the chaos even as their underlings are ruined for life.

Yes, this is an extremely bleak exploration of the fall of capitalism, and the actors are terrific at playing people who always put their own needs before everyone else's. In one chilling conversation, Bettany rants about his disdain for the "normal people" who provide all the cash these wealthy people spend.
None of these people care that what they are doing will destroy "normal" lives.

While this statement is a bit obvious, writer-director Chandor also stirs in some literary elements such as Spacey's symbolically dying dog. And the performances that bring the film to life, with especially strong turns by Bettany, Quinto and Badgley. Spacey and Irons are remarkably restrained, never bursting into Mamet-like word explosions, but still powerful. Together, they convey the impending sense of doom in a way we vividly feel. But then we're living in their mess now, so we feel it every day now.

Image caption Margin Call

Facts and Figures

Year: 2011

Run time: 107 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 29th September 2011

Box Office USA: $5.4M

Box Office Worldwide: $5.1M

Budget: $3.4M

Distributed by: Roadside Attractions

Production compaines: Lions Gate

Reviews 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Fresh: 136 Rotten: 18

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: J.C. Chandor

Producer: Robert Ogden Barnum, Michael Benaroya, Neal Dodson, Joe Jenckes, Corey Moosa, Zachary Quinto

Screenwriter: J.C. Chandor

Starring: Kevin Spacey as Sam Rogers, Paul Bettany as Will Emerson, Jeremy Irons as John Tuld, Zachary Quinto as Peter Sullivan, Ashley Williams as Heather Burke, Demi Moore as Sarah Robertson, Simon Baker as Jared Cohen, Penn Badgley as Seth Bregman, Mary McDonnell as Mary Rogers, Stanley Tucci as Eric Dale, Aasif Mandvi as Ramesh Shah, Susan Blackwell as Lauren Bratberg, Maria Dizzia as Executive Assistant