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Reviews

Margin Call

Jeremy Clarke

RMargin-Call.jpg

Margin Call
Directed by JC Chandor
­­­­Certificate tbc, 107 mins
An early contender for one of the best films of 2012, this drama set in an unnamed investment bank in 2008 envisages the 24 hours leading to the global financial meltdown. It opens with downsizers visiting the trading floor where eighty per cent of employees are being let go, among them Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci). Going down in the lift, he hands a USB drive to the young trader Peter Sullivan (Zachery Quinto) with the warning, 'Be careful'. It contains the last thing Dale was working on, an incomplete model of the company's financial projection. Sullivan sits down with the figures and by evening, when other cull survivors are out drinking, he has got the model to work. What he has found makes him call in immediate superior Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey), who subsequently pulls in his own superiors, a process repeated until the owner of the company John Tuld (Jeremy Irons) flies in by helicopter for a meeting.
Tuld's blueprint for survival is: 'Be first, be smarter, or cheat. I don't cheat'. Already by the time he says this, we've heard discussions about the vast amounts of money earned by these people, amounts dwarfed by what their superiors earn. We've seen people this world deems expendable tossed aside. In due course,we will see trading floor staff being offered massive bonuses if they can shift soon-to-be-worthless financial products to clients whose trust they've previously earned in order to save the company before the rest of the industry around it goes belly up. Tuld's mantra comes to sound suspiciously like unconscionable greed. The film offers a convincing dissection of the way that having a job to do - or to save - can override and crush every ethical  consideration. The Devil take the hindmost.
Packed with financial jargon (and profuse amounts of swearing), first time director Chandor's smart script offers a series of characters who understand increasingly that their gravy train is about to be derailed and, while they're still aboard, are moving swiftly to ensure their own survival. Those of us who don't work in banking won't fully grasp the finer points of all this, but we won't mind either - we can see that these characters do. It helps that Chandor's casting is excellent and that all involved give terrific performances. The top notch cast list - which also includes Paul Bettany as a trading floor boss and Demi Moore as a risk assessor - belies the fact that this is a little independent production with talent attracted more by the quality of the screenwriting than anything else. There are flaws, certainly - the idea of Rogers caring more for his dying dog than for fellow employees is a little laboured - but overall this is an impressive piece of work. Without being simplistic about the characters in the self-serving corporate world it portrays, it's an blistering indictment of it.RMargin-Call.jpg

Directed by JC Chandor
Certificate tbc, 107 mins

An early contender for one of the best films of 2012, this drama set in an unnamed investment bank in 2008 envisages the 24 hours leading to the global financial meltdown. It opens with downsizers visiting the trading floor where eighty per cent of employees are being let go, among them Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci). Going down in the lift, he hands a USB drive to the young trader Peter Sullivan (Zachery Quinto) with the warning, 'Be careful'. It contains the last thing Dale was working on, an incomplete model of the company's financial projection. Sullivan sits down with the figures and by evening, when other cull survivors are out drinking, he has got the model to work. What he has found makes him call in immediate superior Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey), who subsequently pulls in his own superiors, a process repeated until the owner of the company John Tuld (Jeremy Irons) flies in by helicopter for a meeting.

Tuld's blueprint for survival is: 'Be first, be smarter, or cheat. I don't cheat'. Already by the time he says this, we've heard discussions about the vast amounts of money earned by these people, amounts dwarfed by what their superiors earn. We've seen people this world deems expendable tossed aside. In due course,we will see trading floor staff being offered massive bonuses if they can shift soon-to-be-worthless financial products to clients whose trust they've previously earned in order to save the company before the rest of the industry around it goes belly up. Tuld's mantra comes to sound suspiciously like unconscionable greed. The film offers a convincing dissection of the way that having a job to do - or to save - can override and crush every ethical  consideration. The Devil take the hindmost.

Packed with financial jargon (and profuse amounts of swearing), first time director Chandor's smart script offers a series of characters who understand increasingly that their gravy train is about to be derailed and, while they're still aboard, are moving swiftly to ensure their own survival. Those of us who don't work in banking won't fully grasp the finer points of all this, but we won't mind either - we can see that these characters do. It helps that Chandor's casting is excellent and that all involved give terrific performances. The top notch cast list - which also includes Paul Bettany as a trading floor boss and Demi Moore as a risk assessor - belies the fact that this is a little independent production with talent attracted more by the quality of the screenwriting than anything else. There are flaws, certainly - the idea of Rogers caring more for his dying dog than for fellow employees is a little laboured - but overall this is an impressive piece of work. Without being simplistic about the characters in the self-serving corporate world it portrays, it's an blistering indictment of it.