Margin Call

WRITTEN BY: J.C. Chandor
STARRING: Kevin Spacey, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Paul Bettany, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore
RATING: 3 stars

You know those films where not much really happens and yet you still remain relatively interested in it? Well that's Margin Call. We learn at the start what's happening (the stock market is on the verge of collapse) and by the end of the film it's still happening. There's no resolution. But hey, it's about the start of the global financial crisis so it's not an easy thing to just tie up with a typical Hollywood ending. However, what the film does show audiences is what it might have been like on Wall Street the night before the global financial crisis hit.

In Margin Call, we are introduced to a financial company that is downsizing its staff numbers. One of the people fired is Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci) the head of the risk management division who was working on something big before he was let go. One of the young analysts, Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto), completes the work late that night and immediately calls his colleague Seth Bregman (Penn Badgley) to discuss his dangerous discovery. All the senior management at the company (Paul Bettany, Kevin Spacey, Simon Baker, Demi Moore and Jeremy Irons) are then called in for a long night of double checking the figures before debating what to do to save the company from financial ruin, even if it means selling worthless shares that will ruin other companies.

As a newcomer, writer/director J.C. Chandor has shown some promise. He's written some clever dialogue and has produced a script that is simple enough that even the most uninterested in the stock market can understand what's going on. The film manages to offer some sympathetic characters while also showing audiences the harsh truth that there are some people in the financial world who are more concerned about making money for themselves and their company than making sure the market remains balanced for everyone. In fact, although no real companies or people were named in the film, Irons' character, John Tuld, has a similar name to Richard Fuld, who was the chief executive of the bankrupted Lehman Brothers.

Although the film is slow-paced, the performances are so strong in this film that its compelling to watch. The entire film plays out like an episode of 24, and you feel the strain that the characters feel. Leading the pack is Irons, who is cold and slimy. Equally powerful is Spacey who wants to do the right thing but knows its much easier for him if he does the morally wrong thing. Bettany is also very good and shares some moving scenes with several cast mates including Quinto and Tucci, while it is left to Gossip Girl star Badgley to provide most of the laughs, and dare I say it, he does a pretty good job. Baker and Moore are also in good form. There isn't really a bad performance in this film.

However, for all my praise and intrigue in the film, there is something missing. There just isn't enough of a spark to make me want to watch this film again. I think it's a good film, but it isn't a powerful film. Perhaps the subject matter just isn't quite interesting enough? It should be, considering it affected the whole world, and yet there's something lacking about it. It's worth a look, but it's probably not worth buying on DVD later.