Margin Call

Rated R 109 min. 2011

Talented first time director and writer J.C. Chandor filmed Margin Call almost entirely in the fluorescent-lit offices of a Manhattan investment bank, a cloistered environment that can often feel like a glass castle separated from the world below by a moat of money. The film opens as a throng of suits with white boxes arrives to drop the ax on a large portion of the firm’s staff, including senior risk management executive Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci). Dale has been working out a disturbing formula just as he’s shown the door, which suggests the firm is built on worthless securities and is racing at 80 mph toward a brick wall. When a brilliant young trader Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) gets a hold of Dale’s data, he confirms the worst. A cadre of the firm’s top officials convenes, including billionaire CEO John Tuld (Jeremy Irons), who copters in to the building’s rooftop. Their all-night jam session on how to avert disaster come morning is filled with angst, regret, and cockiness. The moral conscience at the center of the maelstrom is smooth-talking, trading floor guru Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey), who’s simultaneously dealing with a dying dog and the withering of his own faith in the business he’s labored in for the past 34 years. When he sees how the big bosses plan to weasel their way back into solvency, he’s disgusted. Beyond its interesting ensemble cast and a fairly well-placed story, Margin Call’s most significant revelation may be what it has to say about America’s tenuous hold on meaningful labor. Margin Call is a film about the specific perversities of Wall Street, but viewers may see something familiar in its portrait of a workplace where the bottom line is everything and people are mere impediments in the Darwinian survival of the fittest that’s transposed to the modern workplace.

Film Credits

Official Site:

Director: J.C. Chandor

Writer: J.C. Chandor

Cast: Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Mary McDonnell and Demi Moore

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