Jason Reitman showed us both the business and human(e) side of lay-offs, showing us the state of the average worker, yet somehow managing to give us hope. W. showed us the ridiculousness of the Bush administration while George W. Bush while still in office. Fair Game showed us in a thriller how the truth is often lost in big corporations… And many more followed, all making statements about the problems in our country, many of them while the events in the film are still being played out or discussed in real life. So where does J.C. Chandor’s Margin Call fall?
- Director: J.C. Chandor
- Writer: J.C. Chandor
- Cast: Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci
- Cinematography By: Frank G. DeMarco
- Original Music By: Nathan Larson
The biggest problem with this film is that it doesn’t differentiate itself enough from other economic disaster films in any interesting or thought-provoking way. The film takes a looks at the world of an investment firm during the early stages of the 2008 financial crisis, but doesn’t really give us anything new to understand, merely shows us what happened. To add to that, it doesn’t fulfill its requirements as a “dramatic thriller” that it calls itself, it’s more of a slow moving, surface level explanation. We’ve been inundated with this kind of film for the past few years because people need to know why.
Margin Call is Up in the Air without the humor, W. without the political commentary or timeliness, Casino Jack without the tension or the humor, Fair Games without the suspense or strong message, The Company Men without the personal, human relationships… So what it is?
The thing that all of these films have in common is that they either teach us something new about our current state, give us hope, or show us new information that may have led to our current situation or that is currently causing our situation. Margin Call shows us something that happened, in a somewhat interesting way, with no real message, very little humor and almost no tension (for the audience).
It does however provide an inside look at big business and the chance to understand why certain decisions are made. What this film did well is show you that everyone is somehow to blame, and that one’s office superior’s know one thing, how to get out of a bad situation with as much money as possible — they’re not the ones running the company.
What was most interesting about this film is watching how big companies fall into the ladder system… Every time that someone was able to try and do something to predict what was going to happen or try to save the day, they get a piece of information the push it up the ladder and then people are scared of what it means and twist into something new so that they don’t get screwed (which almost always screws them). We see a long line of bosses, all of which first appear to be an asshole, but eventually we somehow come around to understand their rationale. As soon as that happens, the problem gets pushed up the ladder again, and we get to see another aspect of big business. No one ever solves the problem and the people who do are fired.
The best moment in this film is Jeremy Iron’s final monologue. It summarizes the meaning of everything you’ve just watched without appearing cliched and gives us some kind of reasonable rationale to big business (bare in mind that I said reasonable, not humane, intelligent or morally right.) Kevin Spacey did a great job of stepping aside and letting the other actors take center stage. Zachary Quinto gave a solid performance, though I couldn’t stop starring at his overly perfect eyebrows.
The cast was impressive part of this film and probably the number one reason to see it. It does provide you with some god information, just not necessarily the most interesting.
Though not everyone agreed with me, fellow co-writer Brendan Walsh had some other thoughts…