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November 12, 2011 | 12:00 p.m. CST
Frenzied trading floors and evil Gordon Gekko-like characters are nonexistent in Margin Call, a surprisingly calm look at a high-stake 24-hour period of an investment firm on the eve of financial collapse.
J.C. Chandor’s debut independent film isn’t a timeline of the 2008 events within the finance industry, but rather a psychological look into the ethical decisions and fast-paced reactions made by company executives.Related Movie
Though a small film, Margin Call is stacked with a heavy-hitting cast. Their characters are mirrors of the finance industry’s highest execs and lack any noble or self-sacrificing characteristics of heroes.
As layoffs begin on the trading floor, Eric Dale (the always entertaining Stanley Tucci) is fired and leaves behind a project to junior-exec Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto). A closer look reveals to Sullivan that the firm is almost bankrupt.
Said to have been loosely based on the collapse of the Lehman Brothers, the film’s power-hitters accept the consequences in real time and subtly set into place damage control selling toxic assets.
Simon Baker, Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany and Demi Moore play the senior executives who, as their careers and options flash before their eyes, try to fix a financial disaster of their own doing. These characters go beyond the ego-inflated choices of the senior executives as an economic apocalypse lurks in the background.
The scene rarely varies from the glass-enclosed skyscraper in Manhattan, ironically above reality and chaos. Through muted conversations, phone calls and a lack of panic, Margin Call brings a more humanistic view of the decisions made by those far from reality. It’s a great snapshot and reel of the realization of actions by finance big wigs.