Margin Call

(2011)

Genres: Thriller

Review: Margin Call

Transcript for Review: Margin Call

IGNATIY:

The financial crisis of 2008 and the bailouts that followed it remain a very hot topic for discussion, so it's no surprise that we've seen a glut of financial-themed movies in the last couple of years. MARGIN CALL is neither the first nor the last of these films. It starts with company-wide layoffs at a Wall Street investment firm.   Then, as the former head of one department is escorted out by security, he hands one of his subordinates -- played by Zachary Quinto -- a USB drive. Its contents suggest that the company is actually worthless.


The rest of the film is set over the course of a very long night as the company's higher-ups-- who are played by Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Paul Bettany, Simon Baker and Demi Moore-- scramble to figure out what they can do about with this information -- and what it might mean for their careers -- before the market opens the next day.

The confined setting and stylized dialogue give the film a certain theatrical flair, which may be the best thing about it.
A film like this--with a large cast and a big subject--needs a clear, concise vision, a strong hand, and MARGIN CALL just doesn't have it. The cast, for instance, is unbalanced--Jeremy Irons madly chews scenery, while Demi Moore looks like she's about to doze off. And though first-time writer / director JC Chandor has certainly done his research when it comes to the financial sector, his use of belabored metaphors and business-movie cliches--the principled executive who does business the old way, the young innocent discovering the seedy side of banking—It all feels undercooked. It's a thumbs down for me.

CHRISTY:
 
It’s a thumbs up for me.  I feel a lot better than you do, and I do also like the theatricality of it, and it feels like a David Mamet play in a good way.

IGNATIY:
 
It…it feels like warmed over David Mamet…

CHRISTY:
 
But…

IGNATIY:
 
That’s the best this film has to offer.

CHRISTY:
 
But, kind of faithfully so in terms of the cadence and like the masculinity and the swagger and just the profanity of it all, which seems totally germane to who these people are—what they do for a living and how they built their fortunes.  So, I believed all that.  That all worked for me. I liked it very much.

IGNATIY:
 
There’s a swagger to the performances.  There’s no swagger to the direction.  I mean the…

CHRISTY:
 
It’s very low key, but I like that about it.

IGNATIY:
 
It’s not low key.  It’s barely there.

CHRISTY:
 
But, unless…unless these events stand on their own two feet for how…how important they are it doesn’t dramatize them at all.

IGNATIY:
 
No…no…it doesn’t it actually…no…no…no it…I think it should be dramatizing them in fact it’s actually detracting from the power of the performances.  I think this film doesn’t look terribly different from a 90s TV movie.  I mean to me it seemed directionless.

CHRISTY:
 
But, I like that they are all in this claustrophobic space, and this confined time period because it’s a pressure cooker. And they’re all stuck together and that creates tension.

IGNATIY:
 
Sure but there’s no sense of pressure.

CHRISTY:
 
No, absolutely it does.

IGNATIY:
 
No, I don’t think there’s any sense of tension, and I think this film has a really poor sense of pace--even though it’s a confined setting, a very short period of time where we’re looking at about 24 hours—I feel like often times you don’t know what…where this film is headed.

CHRISTY:
 
No, it is clear from the very beginning where it’s headed.  The quiet horror on Zachary Quinto’s face when he’s like wow what is about to happen here says it all.

IGNATIY:
 
I believe…the quiet…that’s what’s called a blank expression.  I think it’s quiet horror.

CHRISTY:  
 
Quiet horror--he worked on it.