“Margin Call” – Be first. Be smarter. Or cheat.

I never understand movies like these, but I do end up liking them. Generally these dramas that deal with financial situations just fly way over my head because they use big phrases like “mortgage backed securities”, “historical volatility levels”, and “bonuses”. But I realized that I don’t have to try to figure out the story through the dialogue, just focus on the acting since that is all these movies are about. And with a cast like the one “Margin Call” has, that was definitely a smart move.

The movie starts with a massive lay-off of the risk management floor of one of Wall Street’s large firms. Employee Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci) is let go after something like 19 years of loyal service blah blah blah, but before he goes he hands over a USB stick to subordinate Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) and says “Look into this…and be careful”. It’s always good news when your boss tells you to be careful as he’s being escorted out of the building. What follows is the discovery of an imminent company collapse as Sullivan discovers that Dale had stumbled on the numbers showing…stuff that I didn’t really understand. Anyway, all of the head guys and ladies are brought in at ungodly hours of the morning to discuss how to deal with this situation. Among these are Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, and Simon West (who I walked past once in Los Angeles, woohoo!). Obviously the agendas differ from employee to CEO as some want to do good for the company and its customers whereas the rest are just worried about not meeting that $6 million salary the coming year. This is where I will jump back to my previous point.

In the midst of a financial meltdown, Kevin Spacey can still make jokes.

For movies like this the story may be a bit too complex for people like me since I don’t know a thing about finance, except that I have about $23 in my wallet right now. So the next best thing to pay attention to is the acting. These films don’t have any CGI or crazy stunts, it’s actually just a lot of sitting around and talking. This means that the best part of the film is the acting and how well the actors and actresses can pull off their characters. While most, if not all, of the actors involved probably made this movie for either a paycheck or to showcase their serious side, I’m willing to bet that if you asked them to describe the plot to you only a few would be able to do so. Really puts it in perspective that actors aren’t Gods; they can be just as dumb as you or me! However the counterpoint to what I just said is that even if it was just a paycheck, the acting was impeccable. Everyone involved did a great job for their roll and I commend them on making a film that I don’t really understand enjoyable to watch. I recall sitting through “Syriana” when it came out with a couple of friends who actually majored in Government and Important World Things at George Washington University, and as soon as the credits started to roll one of them leaned over and said, “I am so sorry.” So it’s the strangest thing that movies like that, where I generally don’t understand the politics or theories behind them tend to be very enjoyable to me.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: Not a movie that will go noticed by many, but for the cast list and the acting it’s well worth a watch if nothing else. And holy crap money.

FLICKCHART RATING: 1370/1944

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One thought on ““Margin Call” – Be first. Be smarter. Or cheat.

  1. Hey Mr. Collector
    Coincidentally just saw this with the Ms. over the weekend. I enjoyed as well. Once the movie was over, it spurred on a conversation with the Ms. on the terms that were being thrown around in the movie as well as the impact the crash in 2008 had to me personally as well as in business. I also told her about the closed door meeting between President Obama and CEO’s of many financial institutions where Bank of America was “told” they would be buying Countrywide and couldn’t leave the room until they agreed to. Same type of dire consequences weighing in the balance, but this time, it was the entire US economy hanging on the edge of a cliff. I suspect they will one day make a movie out of that circumstance as well.
    I was surprised once we got into the movie how choc full of A list actors this movie had, but could only vaguely remember it when it came out in theaters.

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