The release of Margin Call was done at a perfect time, a time where Occupy Wall Street is currently going on in New York protesting the top 1% of the wealthy. This film is about that 1%. Written and directed by first-time filmmaker J.C. Chandor, the film depicts the events that led up to the Financial Crisis of 2008 from an unnamed investment bank.
Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey) has been with this financial investment firm for 34 years. He is the head boss of the risk assessment team. He is going through a rough time, his dog is close to dying and the majority of the risk assessment team is being laid off today. To complicate things exponentially, a discovery is soon made that could end the company.
Right before Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci) was laid off, he was on to something pretty important. The senior risk analyst voices this concern to the job consultants but they did not seem to care. He even brought it up when speaking to his boss as he was packing up his personal belongings of his desk but it did not seem important to his boss either. Finally, as he is about the leave the building for the last time, he hands a USB drive off to one of his co-workers named Peter (Zachary Quinto) and says “Take a look at it, be careful”.
After Peter crunches the numbers from Eric’s file he discovers that Eric was really on to something huge. He frantically alerts his co-workers of his findings. Each person he tells reacts the same way, completely shocked. The news climbs up the ranks and eventually Sam is notified.
Sam calls for all the senior partners of the company for an emergency meeting to discuss these findings. The CEO John Tuld (Jeremy Irons) is brought in by helicopter. Attempting to explain the situation to him is difficult because he does not understand all of the business side of the corporation, he only manages it. Once they speak in plain terms he quickly understands the severity of the problem.
There was a lot of finance jargon thrown around throughout Margin call, enough to where I think it would confuse the average person. I myself was at a loss when terms like MBS market and ABX index were being talked about. However, if you are fairly educated in Economics than you would probably appreciate the fact they did not dumb down the script.
My favorite scene in the film is when Eric speaks about a bridge he once built. The bridge connected a border town in Ohio to one in West Virginia over the Ohio River. They way he mathematically breaks down all the numbers to show how much time and money that bridge saved – all in all he figures he saved 559,020 days by building that bridge based on time/money savings.
Margin Call will walk away with at least one award from the 2012 Independent Spirit awards, as one category has already been decided at the same time the nominations were announced. They will be presented with the Robert Altman award which is given to the director, casting director and its ensemble cast. The film is also nominated for Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay for the 2012 awards.
Through the course of the film, you find out that the personal finances of the bankers themselves tend not to be very good. All of them are making at least six figures, yet every one of them spent nearly all of it. Greed and ignorance has transcended from the work environment to their personal lives. All of the characters are shocked when they hear how much the other person makes, but equally as shocking is how little they have left of it.
It was not just that Margin Call was a little slow moving, it is that the film feels like it is on the same level the entire time. Aside from the very beginning, there was no real excitement to the film, I never felt that there was a climax to the story. That being said, it is a very accurate depiction of the events leading up to the financial crisis, as well as the lives of the people that actually work for investment banks.