Margin Call (2011) Directed by J.C Chandor. With Zachary Quinto, Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker and Penn Badgley.
Set over a twenty-four hour period during the early onset of the global financial crisis of 2008, and following those events through the eyes of employees of a major US investment bank (nudge-nudge), comes this superbly acted film from debut writer-director, J.C Chandor. With an ensemble cast boasting heavyweight talent like Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons, the film does a fine job of capturing a sense of panic and turmoil as the realisation of the immediacy of the global economic meltdown becomes all-too apparent.
It almost seems unfair to single out anyone from such a fine cast, but Kevin Spacey’s character (Sam) is perhaps the most central here and his performance is as good as anything he’s done. In many ways, it’s hard to feel a great deal of sympathy for these people, they are after all the fat-cat bankers who stole a living only to get multi-million dollar payoffs and bonuses when everyone else just had to cope. With this in mind, all the more praise should go to J.C Chandor for cleverly humanising rather than demonising Spacey’s character to the point that although we know he’s complicit, we’re privy to his imperfections, flaws and weaknesses which generate a certain level of empathy for his plight.
Don’t worry though, there’s plenty to boo-hiss as Paul Bettany reflects frivolously on how he ‘spends’ his $2.3m annual salary on cars, hookers and booze while in another scene pours scorn on ‘normal’ people as he speeds across the Brooklyn Bridge in a luxury sports car. The icing on the cake though must be the presence of Jeremy Irons as the company’s powerful head honcho. His scenes with Spacey are particularly memorable and bring a pleasing heft to proceedings. A hugely enjoyable study on men and Demi Moore squirming and sweating their way through the eve of a financial meltdown, but with some welcome personal touches. Far more accessible than say Glengarry Glen Ross or even Wall Street, and with performances every bit as telling. 4/5