Movie Review: Margin Call (2011)

Posted: April 10, 2012 in Drama


Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci) is the head of Risk Management at a major investment firm.  Dale is unceremoniously fired, and told to leave, despite the fact that he’s in the middle of an important project. Junior analyst Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) takes over Dale’s analysis, and finds out that the firm is so overleveraged with bad loans from selling fancy investment products called Credit Default Swaps, which bundled subprime mortgages into investment products.  The housing bubble has burst, and the firm is holding a lot of bad debt.  Sullivan calls in his boss, Will Emerson (Paul Beteny).  Will’s boss, Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey)  suggests that Emerson find Dale.  Rogers takes the issue to the CEO of the investment firm, John Tuld. (Jeremy Irons) Tuld has a choice, he can fall on the sword but contain the problem by not selling the securities to other firms, or he can mitigate his company’s losses by knowingly selling bad securities.  What does Tuld do?

This is a great movie, the fictionalization of the documentary Inside Job.  The movie doesn’t have as many facts and figures and politics as Inside Job does, but it does ring true to the corporate mentality.  The first person to go is the head of Risk Management, that rings true.  The Sam Rogers character literally wants to hide in his office until the whole thing blows over, that rings true.  There are corporate executives that last in corporate jobs by keeping a low profile, and waiting for crises to blow over.  The lower level execs always kick things to the next highest level, that happens all the time. The action was a lot more condensed, it usually takes weeks or months for an issue to make it to the head honcho, but the idea is the same.  This is not an overly dramatic movie, if anything the movie is subtle, the only person who is possibly miscast is Demi Moore as one of the senior execs, but Jeremy Irons is his usual cold-blooded shark.  Paul Betany is great, Kevin Spacey is great, Simon Baker is best of all.  Zachary Quinto is also very good, as the new guy watching the fired bodies pile up beside him.  Margin Call is a simple story, powerfully told.  Watch it.

Margin Call.  Answer this call.


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