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Film review: MARGIN CALL, from Built For Speed

Margin Call, which features an all-star including Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore and Jeremy Irons speculates on what might have happened in the days leading up to the GFC. More than that, it depicts a battle between fading morality and rampant opportunism in the corporate world.

The film begins on a day of mass sackings at a major New York merchant bank.  As one former employee (the ubiquitous Stanley Tucci) is escorted from the building he hands junior analyst (Zachary Quinto) information which reveals that the company is heading for the crapper. A big stakes buck passing and blame game ensues as the seismic waves of the approaching financial catastrophe run up the corporate ladder from Quinto to  boss Kevin Spacey to slimy senior manager Simon Baker to creepy CEO Jeremy Irons.

With an emphasis on dialogue rather than physical action Margin Call is often like a filmed play.  Fortunately the dialogue is literate, insightful and the type that human beings speak as opposed to the hyper babble uttered by the creatures in Aaron Sorkin scripts.  Also, the film attempts to make some of the complex financial issues clear for the average slob.

This is a film about a bank so there’s a limit on how thrilling it can be but it carefully ratchets up the tension as the people’s livelihoods looks like disappearing down the toilet.

Margin Call contains many fine performances with a particularly affecting turn from jaded Spacey as a man desperately trying to cling to some shred of integrity.  Simon Baker is also convincingly oily as the bank’s greed-driven killer robot.

This is not the final word on the GFC or corporate America but it’s an engrossing and of course highly topical film that makes good use of a fine cast.

Director: J.C. Chandor

Released:  15th March 2012

Running time: 107 mins.

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