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Director: J.C. Chandor
Writer: J.C. Chandor
Cast: Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Demi Moore, Mary McDonnell, Aasif Mandvi, Ashley Williams, Susan Blackwell, Maria Dizzia, Jimmy Palumbo, Al Sapienza
Synopsis: A respected financial company is downsizing and one of the victims is the risk management division head, who was working on a major analysis just when he was let go. His protégé completes the study late into the night and then frantically calls his colleagues in about the company's financial disaster he has discovered. What follows is a long night of panicked double checking and double dealing as the senior management prepare to do whatever it takes to mitigate the debacle to come even as the handful of conscientious comrades find themselves dragged along into the unethical abyss.
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language
In the end...it's only money...
On a daily basis, numbers are crunched, and the stock market fluctuates constantly. Billions upon billions of investments are bought and sold everyday; while other companies go out of business as a result. Does society weep for these companies that are forced to close down because of all this? Or will it go on with business as usual? After all, "Wall Street" is a cutthroat place. One that's full of deception, and lies. Why should they care if they screw over a few small businesses in the process? After all, the only important thing they care about is covering their collective a**es, right? To quote one of the characters in the movie, the only way to survive in business is to do three of the following things: "Be first. Be Smarter. Or Cheat." Indeed, I don't think anyone could sum it up better.
It's funny how our big businesses operate. Many people forget that all it takes is one slight miscalculation in the numbers, and the stock market for any company can easily go out of business the next day. It's a sad reality that we must live with everyday. But you want to know the funnier part? Sometimes the people that suffer the most aren't always the ones directly responsible, as it's just the luck of the draw. You know the old saying, "You were just there at the wrong place, at the wrong time." Yeah, it's a real shame isn't it? Imagine you just recently graduated from college, and you got hired by a big investment baking firm. You do as you're told, and for the most part, you do a great job. However, in the world of big corporate America, sometimes that just isn't good enough; hence the sad reality that "Margin Call" presents to us.
Unlike most of the other movies that are nominated for screenplay nominations for this year's Oscar run, "Margin Call" surprisingly features one of the most under rated stories ever told. Granted, I doubt seriously we'll be talking about this movie for years to come, but it's definitely an insightful portrayal of what goes on behind closed doors, when it comes to Wall Street business. The film is said to be inspired a true story, which makes it that much more encompassing to watch, as one has to wonder how truth there is to this movie. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure like most films, the events are a bit exaggerated to create dramatic effect. However, the truth is still there within the film's underlying message, as it tells us how expendable we truly are to those that work in Wall Street. Do they really care about how their moves affect the economy? Or do you think they care more about saving their collective a**es? After all, it's only money right?
And what's money? Pieces of green paper with dead Presidents' faces on them? In fact, one could say the only reason money exists is to keep us from killing each other for food. Is that really all money is to us? Are we really that expendable in society? Are we truly that vulnerable to the point where all it takes is one miscalculation of the numbers, and several people lose their jobs as a result? Indeed, these are just some of the many questions that "Margin Call" touches upon throughout the film.
Not only does the film feature an all star cast, but it also has a thought provoking story that sticks with you long after it ends. The movie takes place in modern times, as a respectable investment bank is in the midst of laying off employees, due to downsizing. One of the unlucky few is Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci), who is head of risk management. To matters more interesting, he was working on an analysis of the firm's financial figures, but he was let go before he could ever figure it out. However, as luck would have it, he bumps into his protege, Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto), and hands it off to him to figure out the rest of the equation.
Unfortunately, what he finds out is not something that his employers wanted to hear. I won't say exactly what he found out, as part of the film's allure is how they come to this predicament to begin with. However, I will say that the movie is eerily disturbing in it's portrayal of corporate business. Another thing that makes this film very interesting to watch is how mere speculation of how they could go out of business causes a severe panic within the firm itself, to where they'd be willing to sell all their assets if it meant saving their own skins; even at the cost of screwing over the economy in the process. After all, it's only money right? Who cares if a few businesses get f***ed over in the process, right?
Needless to say, "Margin Call" is not your typical Hollywood movie that paints a pretty picture of what Wall Street business happens be, but rather it tries to show you the dark side of the business; while showing audiences what many executives would do to save their figurative skins. Plus, you have to almost admire how well this all star cast seems to gel together, and how effectively the story utilizes each actor's talent. However, this isn't to say the film doesn't suffer from it's own share of flaws.
One of them is obviously the pacing of the movie itself, as "Margin Call" has a tendency to drag a few times. And, there's a subplot that never really seems to go anywhere, like Kevin Spacey's character dealing with the death of his dog. Granted, I can see where the movie was going with that subplot, as it's fairly obvious they were trying to depict some level of humanity within Spacey's character; hence showing audiences that not all Wall Street executives are corporate pricks. However, the subplot seems a bit out of place, and it doesn't really add much to the movie as a whole.
However, with all these gripes aside, I thought "Margin Call" was a very in depth thought provoking film. Would I say it's the best film to ever capture the corrupt dark side of Wall Street? Absolutely not. It's not even close, as I would still say that the original "Wall Street" is far better, at depicting the dark side of business. However, it's definitely worth checking out anyway, at a rating of three out of four.