Reviewed Mar 12, 2012
I fully admit, I know absolutely nothing about the stock market or financial - anything. And yet, this film about a high profile investment bank (referred to ominously as “The Firm”) undergoing a financial crisis over a 24-hour period had me pretty much on the edge of my seat the entire time. Although not explicitly stated, it’s likely to draw source material from the financial crash of 2007-2008 and the aforementioned “Firm” could easily represent any of the major US banks.
Margin Call takes pains to explain complex financial jargon in layman’s terms (there are about a half a dozen explicit instances where execs asks analysts to ‘tell it to me straight/in English’) and I still found myself very much invested (pun intended) and engaged throughout despite my ignorance of the subject matter. I could attempt to give a plot summary here, but I think ultimately that would do the film a disservice. Let’s face it, stock markets and financial gibboty-gob is hardly the kind of material that sends you running to the theatre. But I can say in all honesty, I didn’t expect it but I was delighted with this film. The harmonious synergy between the actors, screenplay and direction make for a very gripping, solid film that is quite satisfying.
At face value, what carries Margin Call is the absolutely stellar performances from an all-star ensemble cast. But in order for these actors to shine as brightly as they do, a round of applause has to be given to J.C. Chandor who serves as both screenwriter and director. The dialogue is believable and compelling, all without alienating audience members who aren’t quite familiar with the jargon. Yes, the film primarily rests on a hand-held documentary-style to convey stark realism, which is predictable, but it works here. That simplicity really allows the actors to come to the forefront. Truly, the film doesn’t appear to have a weak performance in it, but Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci, Zachary Quinto, Paul Bettany and Jeremy (frickin) Irons need particular mention. I’ve never seen a better example of actors bringing out the best in each other and boy, it sure is delicious to watch.
I never (ever) thought I would be recommending a stock-market-y film, much less put one on my best list, but this one is definitely worth a check out if you want to see what some amazing actors can do with a well-written, perfectly paced script, guided by a talented director.