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Margin Call - DVD Review

Margin Call

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4.5 out of 5

THE 2008 financial meltdown provides the sobering backdrop for this astute drama that’s intelligently delivered and sharply performed by a first rate cast.

Written and directed by JC Chandor, Margin Call takes place over the course of a historic 24 hours in the life of a fictional trading firm.

The film opens with the brutal laying off of staff, as evidenced (in cold blooded fashion) with the axing of loyal long-term employee Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci). On his way out of the building, however, Dale gives trusted colleague Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) a chip containing data on the last thing he had been working on. He also utters a caution: “Be careful.”

Sullivan duly investigates and discovers the unthinkable: that his firm’s financial model is no longer sustainable. He calls his boss (Paul Bettany) who, in turn, calls his (Kevin Spacey), prompting through the night meetings designed at averting disaster.

But as the enormity of what faces them dawns, morality and ethics are put on the line as each key player has a big decision to make.

Though fictional, Chandor’s film is made all the more gripping by virtue of its basis in cold, hard truth. Try watching it as a double bill with Charles Ferguson’s documentary Inside Job to see what I mean.

But the film offers a ruthlessly efficient insight into the world of high finance and trading, exposing some harsh truths about the people who fiddled while Wall Street burned (typified in the film by Jeremy Irons’ splendidly self-serving head boss).

The crisis does eventually prick the consciences of a few good men (Spacey’s boss, Quinto’s brainiac) but as hard as they try to argue in favour of doing what’s right, the dictats of big business and a slavish adherence to the dollar eventually proves a driving factor.

Chandor’s film thereby serves as a pressure cooker scenario that thrives on placing once confident men under extreme pressure and watching them crack. As depressing as this might sound, it’s thrilling to watch unfold.

And the performances mesmerise, from Spacey’s embittered company man (struggling to keep his rising disgust in check) to Bettany’s cold, calculated second-in-command to Simon Baker’s ruthless section chief right down to Tucci’s axed finance whizz and Quinto’s quick-learning hotshot in waiting.

This is a thriller that’s both relevant and engaging and one of that really ought not to be missed.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 107mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: November 12, 2012