Margin Call’s opening does nothing to dispel the long held public view of capitalist greed or reassign blame for the “shit-storm” of 2008’s financial meltdown.
The opening act dominated by Stanley Tucci’s cold culling, comes in the way expected, much in comparison to the dispassionate handling by Clooney’s hatchet in Up in the air.
It’s a dismissal straight from a template were nineteen years of service is summarily placed in a bankers box. It’s a downsizing were a company protects its future by dispensing with the individual and quickly moves on with Kevin Spacey’s entry to rally the troops and focus on regaining. Without lamenting for colleagues lost the capitalist machine fires up once more.
But as Paul Bettany’s latterly made succinct re-balancing speech maintains the true reality, any peripheral view would be deemed dogmatic when looking in on a world far removed and alien to Joe Public whose pockets ultimately became shallowest.
Greed isn’t good and the routine assigning of blame of fat cats may just be in need of a rethink when Bettany reversely blames a culture demanding fast credit, making capitalism necessary.
It’s an argument to many other counter arguments that makes director J.C. Chandor’s staging of events within a large investment bank, rubber stamping the crashing wave of the meltdown, so captivating.
Those events set over the course of two days and one atmospheric sandwiched night works hard to dramatize a familiar celluloid environment of projections and intricacies as Zach Quinto’s genius risk assessor uncovers the departed Tucci’s final legacy, an analysis of a business strategy doomed to fail. Some late night computing and factorisation conclude the undeniable prediction of financial meltdown.
With financial apocalypse imminent, a plan is devised to save the company and unquestionably send a virus out into the financial world that will bring global market crash.
And it’s the moral dilemma of this action that makes this insular study of the complexities of the market and the people operating in it so compelling, not all are greedy and without conscience as first thought when ordering a fire-sale of toxic assets.
A rightly Oscar nominated screenplay just manages to bust all the jargon, laying out dialogue of quality that doesn’t try to be too clever in conveying the enormity of events.
But it’s not easy to always remain compelling with an equal pace throughout and few upsurges in drama making it a more measured procession towards fiscal doom.
The stimulus needed comes from an ensemble of some of the finest, delivering that play with clear gusto, understanding the significance, adding to the tension of the tight timescale of action.
Kevin Spacey reprises the similar corporate roles of Glengarry Glen Ross and slightly comparatively his comic turn in Horrible Bosses as the office trading manager whose personal journey procures some sympathy; detached in the first day of redundancies but later conflicted about the chosen course, fully mindful of the consequences.
Bettany has a bullish presence as a fellow office manager, equally brutal and considerate to the effects of meltdown to his protégés Zach Quinto and Penn Badgley and the world beyond ‘the street’; and too providing answers as to why brokers get paid so much and where it all goes, cementing the long held belief that whether rich or poor we all live to our means.
Quinto’s former rocket scientist brings a commentary forwards that the real important and rewarding roles in the working world lye outside the glass halls of capitalism, but greed and gain draw on his genius when revealing his own motivations to choose this less rewarding but vastly better remunerating role; with his inquisitive nature revealing even more alarmingly for the outside world, that the ripples of meltdown are already in place, and have been for some time.
Ripples seemingly known to bigger bosses Demi Moore and Simon Baker whose egotistical battling highlights that’s its even tougher at the top; Baker the most hardened and uncaring to colleague and global ramifications and perhaps the least developed protagonist.
But not so Jeremy Irons’ stupendous uber boss, at first an intimidating lamens man dealing only in direct talk, used to getting his own way, repaying of loyalty and portraying that even at the removed top slim morality still exists, but ultimately decisive when pulling the pin of the toxic economic hand grenade.
Tucci bookends brilliantly, latterly in a revealing doorstep discourse about his bridge building past as a civil engineer , presenting a man of dignity in what is often portrayed (not just here) as an undignified working world; far prouder of his taken for granted legacy of service to time saving and weary of his part in the global greed machine.
Overall it’s an exceptional and well-cast ensemble, essentially given stereotypical beasts to play, all expertly deliver fine dialogue without overplay while true to form.
With no shortage of visual flair, Margin Call’s potentially mundane subject is directed with steady pace and purpose but inevitably falls (only) momentarily to the nature of such seemingly un-dramatic passages.
High rise panoramas give a rarefied view of the world below, as if the financial gods look down all powerful from on high, which may well be acutely true. The cool, glass metallic capture of office and high rise structures serves to convey the hard and cold world of broking.
The fire-sale finale is highly disturbing as the bait is cast and routinely gobbled up by the sharks in the wider financial market, again demonstrating the greedy, opportunistic culture of capitalism that means that this isn’t the first time and likely won’t be the last that the backside falls out of the boom = crash!
Media and governments tell us much of what happened, what caused the shit-storm of 2008, here, a perhaps truer account of what did happen is presented, while portraying the fat cats in many of the expected conventions that demonise, but on balance providing some of the rarer seen humanistic qualities that not all are unscrupulous. It may at least allow further food for thought when making your own margin call when deciding who to blame.