Margin Call Review

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Score

Even refried Glengarry Glen Ross (served with a large side of Michael Clayton) still makes for good eatin’.

A USB stick, an underachieving rocket scientist and a severely busted moral compass converge on a customarily soulless Wall Street trading floor and blow the stilts from underneath the US economy. First time writer/director JC Chandor proves that even refried Glengarry Glen Ross (served with a large side of Michael Clayton) still makes for good eatin’.

His smart, bluesy ensemble drama demonstrates a sincere interest in the mindset of bankers and traders who make split-second decisions that they know will plunge faceless millions into years of debt and misery.

It opens on a downsizing, with Stanley Tucci’s sympathetic, family-man middle-manager handed his P45 and hastily shown the exit. He flags up a spreadsheet he’s been working on to go-getting minnow Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto). Peter decides – what the hell – to glance at the file and fill in the blanks while his colleagues, Paul Bettany and Penn Badgley, are necking single malt, having managed to survive the chop.

Yet, in true disaster movie style, it’s not long before Peter is scrambling for his mobile and urgently reciting lines such as: “Sir, you really need to get back to the office and see this!”

For a calling-card feature, Margin Call has much to admire. Chandor proposes that when the cataclysm comes, it could well be instantaneous, and he really evokes a sense that the tectonic plates of commerce are shifting underfoot as these slick stooges are forced to atone for their corporate sins.

Some may sneer at the suggestion that these asset-stripping bastards have a heart, or the proposal that economic crisis is inevitable as Wall Street bosses simply have no idea how their own companies function.

More problematic is the fact that Chandor’s screenplay gravitates away from thoughtful drama towards ad hoc recitations of statistics, or, in the case of Tucci’s character, a ridiculous monologue about how he only wanted to change the world, man! Chandor clearly wants to do the same, but doesn’t quite pull it off with this soft-edged missive.

Anticipation

Newsworthy? Snoozeworthy more like.

2

Enjoyment

Fine acting and sense of purpose, if occasionally a little too equivocal.

3

In Retrospect

A robust debut, but nothing more.

3
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