By Aaron Moran (Ireland)
‘Money is just paper with peoples faces on it.’
In 2008 everything went wrong, the stock market crashed and all hell broke loose. It was the first the first time people started to hear the dreaded “R” word… Recession but it was most certainly not the last. Jobs were lost and so were many lives as the shockwaves of the crash started to infest each country like a cancer. Prices skyrocketed as banks shut their doors on the millions of people who had entrusted them with their money.
The 24 hours leading up to this meltdown is where debut director J.C. Chandor has decided to set his first feature. The film opens with the gutting of an office that will soon be inexorably linked with the collapse. One of the employees being let go is Eric Dale, played by Stanley Tucci, he’s the risk assessment manager of the firm and is deemed to be no longer necessary to the running of the company. On his way out the door he hands a USB key to his subordinate Peter Sullivan, played by Star Treks Zachary Quinto. He leaves Sullivan with the short warning of “be careful”.
When Quinto plugs in the USB key he discovers something that will change his firm and America forever. He then informs his boss, played by Paul Bettany, of his findings and from there the news begins to travel up the pipeline until it reaches the head honcho of the company John Tuld, played by the wonderful Jeremy Irons. The firm is then put to the task of selling all of its stock before anyone realizes how worthless it really is.
Kevin Spacey is then introduced as the moral compass of the film knowing what he and his firm are doing and trying to explain that it will save them now but it will destroy the company in the long run. The film is a great ensemble piece with everyone putting in some of their finest work of the decade. The script is superb with killer lines of dialogue being traded throughout, especially great are Paul Bettany and Jeremy Irons’ performances with the former making us wonder why he wasted his time on big-budget, CGI- filled nonsense when he is obviously more suited and interested in this type of work, and the former reminding us why he is one of England’s finest exports and one the most intelligent actors working today.
The film manages to humanize the type of people who are demonized in the press day in and day out, it exists in a grey area giving enough character moments to make us at least understand why they did what they did. The film is boosted by some excellent cinematography which helps to further the ominous tone that surrounds the film. This culminates in the third act which shows the level of deception that was going on behind the scenes. Once Paul Bettany utters the line “My loss is your gain” you know immediately what devastation is about to follow.
It is a timely feature which would work as a great companion piece to Wall Street as they both show the opposite ends of the spectrum in the business world. These are the people whose job it is to predict outcomes and the film shows what can happen when they get it wrong.
Margin Call is a near-perfect film with superb performances all round, great direction and a brilliant screenplay. This is intelligent film-making at its very finest.