Margin Call (2011)

Margin Call (2011)
  • Time: 107 min
  • Genre: Drama | Thriller
  • Director: J.C. Chandor
  • Cast: Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons


A respected financial company is downsizing and one of the victims is the risk management division head, who was working on a major analysis just when he was let go. His protégé completes the study late into the night and then frantically calls his colleagues in about the company’s financial disaster he has discovered. What follows is a long night of panicked double checking and double dealing as the senior management prepare to do whatever it takes to mitigate the debacle to come even as the handful of conscientious comrades find themselves dragged along into the unethical abyss.

One review

  • A terrific cast highlights “Margin Call,” a 2011 film by a then new director, J.C. Chandor, who also wrote this film. He’s assembled a great group to tell his story: Jeremy Irons, Kevin Spacey, Stanley Tucci, Zachary Quinto, Will Bettany, Simon Baker, Demi Moore, and Penn Badgley.

    The movie starts with big changes taking place in a financial firm, with Eric Dake (Stanley Tucci) being let go. As he’s leaving, he hands a jump drive to one of the young men under him, Peter Sullivan (Quinto) and tells him to look it over and “be careful.” Peter looks it over later that night, all right, panics, and calls another associate, Seth (Badgley) and asks him to return to the office and bring their boss, Will (Bettany) who is drinking in the same nightclub.

    Peter, and Seth before him, has discovered that their volatility assumptions in their MBS portfolio are false, something that can destroy their company. They have a huge pile of assets worth much less than they thought. Selling them off will possibly hurt the firm’s reputation and the personal reputation of some of the brokers. But they have to do something.

    A huge meeting is called, with John Tuld (Irons), the head of the entire concern, coming in on a helicopter with another bigshot, Cohen (Baker) as they try to decide what to do.

    I just loved the entire cast, but not being a broker, and being someone who just by buying one share of stock seems to bring down large companies and cause the market to crash, the scariness of all this was sort of lost on me. Intellectually I understood their panic, but emotionally I couldn’t get into it. The most compelling part for me was the beginning, with a security guard escorting Tucci into his office to clean out his desk. Anyone in a corporation who has ever witnessed this or been victim of the firing process – your voice mail gone, your log-in no good, your phone cut off – knows how humiliating that is.

    The whole cast is wonderful. Quinto is excellent as a young man who stumbles on something, is rather dazed by it, and tries to stay calm, while Badgley’s character flips out – the two play well together. My favorite was Irons as a charming, eloquent, take-charge guy – you know exactly what he has the job he does. Spacey’s character, going through a personal crisis, is unsure and doesn’t like the decision made but puts on a brave face. Everyone is great and each character is well defined, because you can really see the mettle of people when they’re in a crisis.

    On that basis, this is a good movie, and if you know a lot about finances and brokerages, or were involved in the crash of 2008, you will love it. I was involved in both the 1987 and the 2008 crash – both times, I entered the market with a few bucks.

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