Set in the high-stakes world of the financial industry, Margin Call tackles a subject in desperate need of cinematic exposition; financial crisis. It’s an ensnaring fictional boardroom thriller that follows a critical 24-hour period in a well-established firm. Several movies, including Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and The Company Men, have attempted to deal with the topic, but few have found the same success.
The opening scene of Margin Call deals with some uncomfortable mass layoffs at a major financial firm. One of those being laid off is a mid-level risk manager, Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci), who had been working on “something big”. Before he is able to complete his work he is escorted out of the building by security, but manages to pass on a flash drive to his protégé, Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto).
After careful analysis Peter discovers some horrific truths about the company’s standings. The numbers no longer add up. He quickly informs his new boss, Will Emerson (Paul Bettany), who in turn informs his boss, Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey). Soon the firm and its execs are all flown out, in the wee early hours of the morning, to handle the predicament. In a state of panic they make some unethical decisions regarding the company’s future.
So you think we might have put a few people out of business today. That it’s all for naught. You’ve been doing that every day for almost forty years Sam. And if this is all for naught then so is everything out there. It’s just money; it’s made up. Pieces of paper with pictures on it so we don’t have to kill each other just to get something to eat. It’s not wrong. And it’s certainly no different today than it’s ever been. – John Tuld
Margin Call features arguably the biggest cast of award-winning screen veterans last year, including Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci, Jeremy Irons and Demi Moore. And thanks to an equally good support team, the ensemble play remarkable well off each other, constantly scene stealing – like the Olympics for actors.
Margin Call unfolds in a series of quietly intense and increasingly distressing meetings between the various figures. What it lacks in events it makes up for in brilliant performances and delicious dialogue. It doesn’t try to explain the technical causes of the crisis but the psychological causes and human failures (like greed). Not many character-driven stories are popular among audiences – some will love it and some may hate it.