December 20, 2011
Review - " Margin Call " - (on DVD) By Roland Hansen
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Directed by: J.C. Chandor
Starring: kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto,
Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci,
Jim Kirk (seriously - he played 'the copy guy')
The new movie, Margin Call is a fiction film that tries to explain how
one Wall Street firm started the collapse of the American economy in
2008. It's an excellent film that deserves to be seen.
The film depicts a 24 hour period at a Wall Street investment firm
when everything that could go wrong actually did, beginning with
That evening, working late, one of the surving employees, Zachary
Quinto (he played Spock in Star Trek) discovers big trouble with the
risky mortgage based securities his firm has been selling at great
Even though it's late at night, everyone important is called back to the
office from from low level managers Paul Bettany and Kevin Spacey
to middle managers Demi Moore and Simon Baker, to the top man
played by Jeremy Irons.
As they gather in a conference room, Quinto responds to the big
boss's request to sum up the damage. "Sir, if those assets decrease
by just 25 percent, and remain on our books," Qunito says, "that loss
would be greater than the current market capitalization of this entire
In essence the firm's Ponzi scheme has caught up with them. and Irons wants the firm to sell all the worthless assets
Spacey objects. "You're selling something that you know has no value," he tells Irons.
"We are selling something to willing buyers at the current fair market price," Irons responds, his voice rising, "so that we may
"You will never sell anything to any of those people ever again," says Spacey, shaking his head.
Spacey's character is the only person in the room to express any reservations about destroying other investors to save
But the point of Margin Call isn't to show how
rotten these people are but rather to show
how they saved themselves at the expense of
others. The film makes their position
understandable even though it's not
The film delivers smart dialogue, good acting,
and a heavy load of unspoken tension.
Margin Call won't help anyone understand the
actual details of the financial manipulations
that created the mess we're in, but it does
humanize the greedy people responsible for it.
They were "going along to get along" as so
many of us do.