Margin Call was a movie we should have seen released in New Zealand a lot earlier. It wasn’t that long ago that the acronym GFC was sitting alone on the shelf without meaning. Then the Global Financial Crisis hit and banks paying out executives as the ship went down became the daily headline. Suddenly GFC had found life purpose and we wondered what would happen to the family mortgage. What I don’t understand is how a movie this good with award nominations and high screen ratings gets released nearly nine months after the US launch.
The work of writer and director J. C. Chandor has class written all over it. While the script is well paced to provide the tension and drama suited to a screen filled with ‘suits’, the depth of on screen talent is superb. While Margin Call cast members like Simon Baker, Zachary Quinto and Demi Moore dance well together I love the return of Paul Bettany’s sardonic wit as we first experienced it in Knight’s Tale.
Our story joins the trading floor of a large Manhattan based institution on the day that two thirds of the floor will lose their positions in a cost-cutting exercise. While the young execs run for cover the floor’s head of risk management works on a problem he sees looming. A drop of Stanley Tucci never goes amiss and his role provides the key to the jigsaw puzzle. The surprise of the day is when Tucci’s character Eric Dale is lined up and led off the premises with other staff. No questions, no right of reply and if you contest the decision the chances are you will lose the last drop of benefits the company can offer. So out the door Eric goes only at the last minute to pass a USB drive of his project into the hands of young trader Peter Sullivan. It’s Quinto’s character Peter who then turns the key and finds the mounting disaster facing the trading floor.
Interspersed into the story are the veteran trading floor manager Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey) and the CEO who is ‘paid’ to listen to the ‘music’ of the market John Tuld (Jeremy Irons). These brilliant performers keep the tension as they decide between the important things in their life. Are they the companion dog with a liver condition costing $1000/day or is it a glass of red wine on the top floor of your building overseeing your dominion. Self-absorbed or purely full of greed, Spacey and Irons show the essence of each human condition.
When given actors of the class of Jeremy Irons and Kevin Spacey Chandor had this to say;
“I also came into it with this insane confidence that I’d been waiting 15 years for this opportunity. This is making a little bit light of the situation, but essentially, I walked on to that set saying, ‘Who gives a crap if this is Kevin Spacey? He is an amazing lump of clay who is probably going to give me a greater performance than anyone else I could have cast in that role, but I’m here to make the movie I know I want to make.”
You’re probably picking up how impressed I am. You can’t argue when a director can write a script about a bank and assemble character actors to make greed, delusion and the momentum of a real world event carry like a secret agent conspiracy. Take the time to see Margin Call and check your mortgage interest rate.
3.5 out of 5 popcorns