Margin Call (2011)

These ARE the people we trust with OUR money?

The story takes place at an investment bank during a time span of about 24 hours during the early stages of the financial crisis as a financial analyst uncovers information that could destroy the firm. Tough decisions have to be made, pushing the lives of those involved to the brink of disaster.

In my honest opinion, this is the flick that the debacle Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps should have and tried to be. Which is an ever bigger shame for me considering Oliver Stone is one of my favorites and to see this young blood, writer/director J.C Chandor, practically make a better script, do a better-job behind the camera, bring-out more emotions, make a way, way better flick and take his spot, really makes me sad for one reason and one reason only: the times are changin’. However, it’s not something to really be all that sad about because trust me; after spending 2-hours with this movie, you’re going to be more than inspired to take all of your moolah out of the bank, and hide it in that secret vault behind that lame-ass painting G’Mom bought you last year. Don’t act like you have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m on to you people out there.

But I digress. For those of you out there who don’t know this already, Margin Call is the directorial debut of Chandor and it’s a real surprise because you would think with something this entertaining, smart, thrilling, and overall, good, that the guy has been directing for decades upon decades. As a director, the guy is all fine and dandy since he never really does anything flashy other than tell the story like it is, but where he really shines is the script. Chandor’s script is amazing not only because it shows you what may have happened to cause the Stock Market crash, but because he shows the Stock Market crash for all that it is, with all the tiny and intricate details, yet without letting anything go over our heads. Like many others reading this, I, myself am a regular, every-day citizen which means that any type of talk of the stock market, the dow, and yadda yadda, all sound like a foreign language to me. However, that’s why I’m glad Chandor decided to include all of that jargon here, but just enough for all of the little-known citizens to fully understand and get a feel of before he launched a full-out, attack of numbers, stocks, and the most important of all: money. Remember the word “money”, people, because it’s going to come-up in this story many, many times. I can assure you on that.

"Kirk, I may need your help."
“Kirk, I may need your help.”

Instead of showing us a bunch of assholes that pretty much bankrupt this country for all that it’s worth, Chandor takes time with these characters and shows about each and every single one of them as human-beings, rather than people to be blamed for the mess they caused. Actually, everybody’s to be blamed here because they didn’t take notice as soon as they should have and Chandor shows that in many ways:  some people feel guilt, others feel sad, others feel optimistic, and others, well, they just don’t give a shit because they already make $56 million a year and won’t really lose much after the whole crash is said and done, so why the hell should they give two hoots!??! It’s a very disturbing idea to think about and have sit in your head, but it’s also very true and realistic in it’s own way because while there are over thousands and thousands of people out there, struggling to make ends meet and support a family; these other people who are supposedly responsible for the whole shit-show, just sit back, relax, and enjoy the Benjamin shower. Why? Because they can and quite frankly, they don’t care.

That whole last paragraph may seem like a total tirade/rant and for those out there who came hear to read about Chandor’s direction, I apologize but it’s just the way the world works, and that’s the way that Chandor paints it. There are no heroes, there are no villains, and there sure as hell aren’t any underdogs here, either. They’re just straight-up human-beings that just so happen to get plenty of moolah, but also have plenty of decisions to make at their workplace. That’s why, instead of sitting around and sobbing about the worst that has yet to come (and trust me, it will come), they get-up out of their seats, do their job, and move on with their lives. That’s mainly the mind-frame of everybody else in today’s world and if not, then it sure as hell should be. Pretty sure I gathered a lot more from this film than I imagined, but none the less, it’s a great script that Chandor deserved the nomination he got for it.

My problems with this film lie in the fact that I feel like this film didn’t have much momentum going for itself. I mean think about it: we already know what’s going to happen, how it’s going to happen, and how it may or may not be resolved. All we really have to do is watch everybody’s reaction and see what their view-points are. That’s not terrible thing to have in a movie like this where the central-problem of the movie is an actual, real-life happening that screwed many people over in today’s world, but it also just seems like it could have been a hell of a lot more tense, had it not already been known what was going to happen in the end. However, that’s why you have movie stars, and holy hell; what movie stars we have on-display here, all for show and tell.

Kevin Spacey is the center of this film as one of the more morally confused characters of the whole film. You can tell that he wants to stay true to his original vision of not selling off worthless stock, but as time goes on, you see this character start to fall back from this original idea as the “money” begins to comes into play and has to make-up and come to terms with the fact that he’s going to have to give into to being a coward, just so he can make a living and be fine in this dying economy. Spacey is always great in roles like this, but we barely see him get a chance to pull it off because he’s always too busy playing the evil, dick-headed roles that he seems to perfect so well. And even though, yeah, he’s good in them, it’s always nice to see him play a character that we root for rather than against,  because he does the right thing and even if he doesn’t do it, at least he’s thinking it. It’s the thought and idea that counts and as shitty of an excuse as that may sound, then trust me; that’s more than I can say for any other character in this flick.

Zachary Quinto also stars in a very strong performance as the one guy who actually finds out about this problem in the formula and is left to solve any pieces of the puzzle that he can. Quinto isn’t somebody I have seen enough of in the past to actually give you my general opinion of what I think of him, but he’s very good here and it’s a real shame that he may not be able to get more roles after this, outside of Star Trek, because of the fact that (I may get shit for saying this but if you think about it: it is somewhat true) he’s gay. Once again, it’s a sad thing to say but it’s true because certain people just don’t want to see an openly gay men in a film, especially one where a character takes such a central focus as this. Yes, I know that it’s a very cynical way of thinking, but it’s the way people are and I hope that I’m wrong about Quinto because I would like to see him in more, other than just playing Spock. No matter how good he may be at it.

Right about now is where I would have to change my diaper.
Right about now is where I would have to change my diaper.

The real scene-stealer of this whole film is actually Paul Bettany, who plays one of the playboy bosses. Bettany has that perfect British wit down-pat here and shows that in every scene he has. However, it isn’t all fun and games with this dude, as he actually has a soul to let-loose and one that may not always seem the most morally-composed at times, but still understands how the world works and understands what’s going to happen to people, once the shit really hits the fan. Bettany deserves more roles like these and it shows that the guy can not only show the humorous-side of him that we see on-display in mostly all of his flicks, but also be able to balance it all out with a rare, dramatic-side as well. Jeremy Irons also pops in as the head-honcho, and does his usual, villainous shit where he comes into a scene, takes it over, brings out the inner-Scar within him, and just lets everybody know that he isn’t having anybody’s crap. In fact, the first scene where he’s introduced and allows us to see the real boss, play his cards and play them well, is one of the high-lights of the movie, not just because of the build-up, but because Irons owns these types of roles and absolutely delivers on everything we have come to know and expect from him.

Make no means about it: everybody in this cast is good and all get to show what they can do when they have the right piece of material, slap-dab in front of them. However, not everybody gets to join in on the fun quite as much as the ones I just mentioned earlier and in a way, as terrible as it may sound, seem like they are all just there to have a BIG-name on the poster. The useless roles for such stars as Demi Moore, Simon Baker, and Mary McDonnell all seem like they were created just for some more publicity, which isn’t necessarily a problem if you’re whole film is going to have them in it as much as the others, but they aren’t really around too much to really take their toll on you. Especially McDonnell, who literally shows up for 2 minutes, barely shows her face, and that’s it. Oh and even worse, it’s basically by the end of the movie, almost to the point of where we start to feel all trugged-along by this movie and all of their characters as it is. But hey, put her name up there next to Stanley Tucci and let’s see how many butts we can get in the seats. Apparently not a lot, but hey, it was worth the “money”-making shot. There’s that damn word again.

Consensus: While it lacks the tension due to the predictable turn of events that conspire, Margin Call is still an in-depth look into the lives of the people that made the ’08 crash possible and how, even though they may have screwed-up terribly, they are still human-beings none the less and made mistakes, that only you, myself, or the rest of the human-species would make.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"Yeah, we're assholes."
“Yeah, we’re assholes.”


  1. I really applaud your movie reviews. They’re lengthy, but good. In terms of Margin Call, I thought it was a good movie worthy of a rim job. It’s kinda like a play, reminding me more of ‘Glengarry Glenross’ rather than ‘Wall Street’. I don’t know if you’ve seen ‘Glengarry Glenross’ but it’s worthy of a rim job due to the acting, the performances, the simple direction. Margin Call is similar and I praise it mainly for how quickly the drama gets going. You should know that such movies that get things started quick-smart are worthy of a rim job. But I’m sure people will complain and say, oh geez, it’s all too vague, the plot and the problem is vague. No worries for me, I say. Cheers! 🙂

  2. Good review, Dan. I really enjoyed this movie and at one point I called it one of the best films of 2011 that nobody has heard of. It’s a shame that I still know very few people that have seen it, or are even aware of it. One of the things that stuck with me was that despite that fact that I didn’t understand half the financial jargon used in the film, I never felt confused or lost by it. Impressive debut by Chandor and I’m looking forward to his next film.

  3. “These ARE the people we trust with OUR money?” Ahah, pretty scary right? I thought this was well-done and well-acted all around. It’s best to see it on rental though as there’s a lot of jargons here that I sometimes had to have the caption on. I did laugh at Jeremy Irons’ accent though, but he was quite memorable.

  4. This is one I have yet to see though it looks as good as you describe it. Kevin Spacey is one of my favorite actors out there, especially if he’s playing evil or someone that does bad things.
    As for your thoughts on Quinto I can’t help but agree with you. Even Hollywood has a ways to go when it comes to accepting every single one of us for who we are. Though your concerns are based on what experience has shown and I agree with them, Quinto did get a very juicy part in American Horror Story Season 1 and 2. Sure, the director/creator is gay too, but work is work. Lets hope Quinto’s career doesn’t get stuck because of his sexual preferences.
    Good review!

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