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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Kevin Spacey
Paul Bettany
Jeremy Irons
Zachary Quinto
Simon Baker
Demi Moore
Stanley Tucci.
Directors
J. C. Chandor.
Screenwriters
J. C. Chandor.
Running Time
107 minutes

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Margin Call
Greed is bad


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Plot
2008. Fired from his job, risk management executive Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci) hands a flash drive to up and coming analyst Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto). Staying late to decode Dale’s findings, Sullivan discovers that the company’s highly leveraged mortgage securities will soon supersede its total market capitalisation. Or in plain English, the company, and Wall Street’s whole financial m.o., is fucked.


Review
Margin Call
At one point during the long night of the soul that makes up Margin Call, Jeremy Irons’ Tuld, the vampiric head of a tottering investment bank, observes, “There are three ways to make a living in this business: be first, be smarter or cheat.” A prescient mantra for the current business age, the purity of the sentiment encapsulates the scalpel-like precision that J. C. Chador’s debut picks over the carcass of modern greed. Part thriller, part horror, part workplace tragi-comedy, all cautionary tale, this is a sharp film about sharp men (and Demi Moore) in sharp suits that makes Wall Street: 2 look like amped-up panto.

With its study of bruising machismo in tight spaces revealed through vital verbiage, Margin Call owes more than a debt to David Mamet in general and Glengarry Glen Ross in particular. But Chandor’s dialogue has none of Mamet’s grandstanding. Instead, the talk is terse, but the coolness with which they discuss nuclear options — dump all their mortgage bundles before the market realises they’re worthless but risk ruining their credibility forever — rings frighteningly true.

Chandor’s screenplay charts Sullivan’s seismic findings up the company ladder, each embodied by a terrific performance; from cynical foot soldier (Paul Bettany) to head trader (Kevin Spacey) to potential fall gal (Demi Moore) to Irons’ CEO. This superb ensemble only get quietly fractious meetings and harried phone calls to establish character, but everyone registers. It is Zachary Quinto (adding another great logician to his CV) and Stanley Tucci who propel the first half, and Spacey and the charming-but-scary Irons who dominate the second. Spacey, in particular, is great, adding a gentility to his normal acid-smart persona — his grieving for his dying dog may be an obvious metaphor, but Spacey makes it affecting.

There is a nice running gag that the higher up the chain of command we go, the weaker their command of financial mumbo-jumbo is. As much as it is about finance, it is also great on office politicking, from the agonies of mass redundancies to the etiquette of corporate hierarchies. It doesn’t shy from exposing avarice and moral myopia but this neither condemns nor glorifies the barbarians. Instead it humanises them, to such an extent it might turn your hatred of the one per cent into pity.


Verdict
Chock-full of terrific performances, Margin Call is the kind of gripping, grown-up film that these days is usually found on the small screen.


Reviewed by Ian Freer

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Margin Call
Empire Star Rating

Great acting!

I'm still not really sure what to make of this. It wasnt what I expected at all but I did really like it. The performances from Irons, Spacey and Bettany were brilliant and I'm really excited about Quinto. For me it just didnt have enough substance to be excellent and it could have done with being a tad longer. I can only think of a handful of people I would recommend this to. 3 and 1/2 stars would be perfect. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by guysalisbury at 09:23, 20 March 2013 | Report This Post


Terrific

Also good to see great drama based simply on people talking in a room. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by tysmuse at 22:49, 13 March 2013 | Report This Post


MY FAVORITE MOVIE OF 2012

looking back on the year this is the best i saw amazing acting screenplay music direction i still can't believe Jeremy Irons wasn't nominated ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bill the butcher at 20:14, 13 December 2012 | Report This Post


MY FAVORITE MOVIE OF 2012

looking back on the year this is the best i saw amazing acting screenplay music direction i still can't believe Jeremy Irons wasn't nominated ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bill the butcher at 20:14, 13 December 2012 | Report This Post


Dull

This film is worth three stars at best. The performances are good but most of it was still impenetrable to me even though friends said it would explain what caused the recession. I kept waiting for some grandstanding or even someone to get killed but the restraint shown made it so dull. And the bit with the dog is just so pretentious. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Enzino at 09:55, 18 April 2012 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

Not my kind of film at all, but went to see it because the trailer was good and i liked the line up of actors ed it more than a few other things I've seen recently. Wouldn't advise anyone to go and see it, but wouldn't advise them not to, either. Always happy to watch Kevin Spacey. ... More

Posted by moehat at 00:12, 23 February 2012 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

Very good little drama which will go unseen by most. Thought Spacey was excellent. ... More

Posted by nhassell at 15:53, 08 February 2012 | Report This Post


RE:

A bit like Inside Job in the sense of condensing a very complicated issue into a manner that makes sense yet doesn't come across as over-simplification. The cast are universally great (Bettany & Irons are terrific, whilst it feels like it's been ages since I've seen Kevin Spacey in anything good) & given it’s a film made up entirely of people speaking in rooms about the financial markets over the course of a 24 hour period it's remarkably gripping. There is however a dog subplot which initially... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 21:11, 06 February 2012 | Report This Post


A bit like Inside Job in the sense of condensing a very complicated issue into a manner that makes sense yet doesn't come across as over-simplification. The cast are universally great (Bettany & Irons are terrific, whilst it feels like it's been ages since I've seen Kevin Spacey in anything good) & given it’s a film made up entirely of people speaking in rooms about the financial markets over the course of a 24 hour period it's remarkably gripping. There is however a dog subplot wh... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 21:10, 06 February 2012 | Report This Post


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