Margin Call (US, 2011)

Go-getting young men?

Imdb says this film cost under $4m to make which suggests its excellent cast (Spacey, Irons, Bettany, Moore, Tucci) made the movie because they wanted to make a statement against the banking system that’s still sending millions into destitution after the 2007 collapse. Writer-director, J.C. Chandor (it’s the first time he’s directed a feature), has done an excellent job in dramatically portraying what happened when it all went ‘tits-up’ in September of that year. Though I think the casting of Kevin Spacey, as the banker with a heart, is wrong; he always has something of the sleaze about him, a residue of earlier roles.

The real sleazeball is Jeremy Irons, who tells his computer-whizzes to explain the situation to him as if they were talking to a dog. The word oleaginous may have been created for Irons in this role: the salesmen who only cares about sales. And that is the root of the problem, when salesmen call the tune then any pretense that a company is offering a service and value for money goes. When I worked for The Times, the ad manager explained he wasn’t ashamed of being in sales as that is what drove capitalism. Clearly, and this was the mid-’80s, he felt some shame about a job that didn’t produce anything and what’s gone after – particularly in financial services – is shameful. I was taught that accountants’ first rule is ‘prudence’, but that was the ’80s too. Since then accountants have often been complicit in the ‘making money at any cost’ (except to themselves) mantra that infected, and still infects, many businesses. Cameron can moan about ‘anti-business’ rhetoric but it is business that has severely damaged the British economy.

I’m not sure anyone who is vague about what caused the financial crisis will fully understand it from this film (read Michael Lewis’ Big Short) but that’s not the film’s fault; Inside Job (US, 2010) is a documentary offers more technical explanations. Only so much can be explained by a drama that’s trying to engage a large audience, and this is a readily engaging film. It’s a shame it only took $5m in North America.

A mention should also be given to up-and-coming Zachary Quinto who takes a lead role and produces.

One comment

  1. keith1942

    I found this interesting but lacking in a clear address of the crisis and even less of the politics of it. This is traditional Hollywood, evil/flawed men rather than the actual system.
    I think Inside Job is a lot better, and pretty good on the technicalities.
    I did like the use of time-lapse photography, which I assumed was also a metaphor.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.