Jan 11 2012 by Ian Bunting, Airdrie & Coatbridge
MARGIN Call tells the story of employees at a investment bank over a 24-hour period during the early stages of the 2008 financial crisis.
Sam (Kevin Spacey), Will (Paul Bettany), Peter (Zachary Quinto), Sarah (Demi Moore) and Eric (Stanley Tucci) fill various roles within the bank but are all hit equally hard by the stress-filled day.
Margin Call has a real contemporary feel and in many ways is as frightening as most horror movies.
From the opening sequence of employees getting pulled from their desks and Tucci getting ruthlessly dismissed, this film will register with everyone who has lost a job or employees fretting over company restructuring announcements and falling profits.
Comparisons with Oliver Stone’s Wall Street are easy to make but there’s no Gordon Gekko-like flash character with no sense of responsibility here – just a bunch of people desperate to avoid meltdown.
Debut full feature director/writer J.C Chandor’s script takes his characters on journeys of varying levels of panic.
Some start fine and others are put through the wringer throughout.
Sam is more upset about his dog dying early on and Will’s gum-chewing cocky veneer gives way to worry as the you-know-what hits the fan.
The difference between those at the top and ‘bottom’ ends of the company are hammered home.
Will breaks down how he spent his $2.5 million annual salary to Peter and fellow ‘youngster’ Seth (Penn Badgley) and when things start to go pear-shaped there’s a great scene where one character cries his eyes out on a toilet while another cooly shaves just yards away.
Chandor never lets us waver from the severity of the impending financial crisis.
Sam tells his staff to “remember this day” and sums up the company’s no thoughts about tomorrow wild spending with the line “I don’t know how we f***** up so bad.”
With the exception of short trips to a bar and house, the film is based in one location and Chandor’s repeated shots of the New York skyline hint at the power these high rollers have over those ‘below.’
A pan shot across an empty office with a conveniently placed U.S flag on the wall symbolises the end of the American dream and the movie ends with someone literally digging a hole... yes, a clear visual metaphor for the foolhardy decisions taken.
The cast is very good overall but Spacey, Bettany, Tucci and Jeremy Irons (John) stand out as the pick of the bunch.
The film’s main flaw is that its tone is very bleak from start to finish and some characters also disappear for large spells (Peter) or feel, ironically, quite redundant (Sarah).
If you’re looking for a feel-good movie to start the year then Margin Call probably isn’t for you.
But if you can handle some grim subject matter then you’ll be rewarded by an electrifying ensemble piece that takes you behind closed doors to examine just how the world ended up in such a financial mess.
Rating - 7 out of 10.