• James Rutherford

'Margin Call': A Taut and Engrossing Depiction of the Global Financial Crisis


Movie poster for the film Margin Call starring Zachary Quinto, Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons

"Margin Call" (2011) is a provocative depiction of the 2007-2008 Global Financial Crisis, focused on an unnamed financial services firm that becomes desperate to unload toxic assets on unsuspecting clients. Central amongst the electric cast of characters is Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto), a junior analyst who forewarns of dangerous volatility in the firm's portfolio of mortgage-backed securities.


The storyline begins on a day of mass layoffs throughout the firm's ranks—key among the departing being Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci), head of risk management. Unable to complete a deep-dive analysis of the firms troubled leverage structure, Dale passes a USB key to Sullivan and encourages him to complete his research. Once Sullivan is able to fully grasp the dire state of the organization's finances—subprime assets threatening complete devastation—he scrambles to run the reddest of flags up the corporate flagpole. Tense late night sessions and the intervention of the firm's loquacious CEO John Tuld (Jeremy Irons) soon follow, as the full scale of their enormous dilemma unfolds—and the direst of decisions must be embraced in order to stave off ruination.


Written and directed by J.C. Chandor ("All Is Lost", "A Most Dangerous Year"), "Margin Call" is a deeply engrossing drama that serves up a scathing indictment of corporate greed and malfeasance. Honing in impressively on the human beings behind the scandal, Chandor engenders enormous dramatic tension from his players, as they embody the all-too-anonymous perpetrators of the greatest financial crisis of the modern era. A stark and arresting depiction of chicanery and immorality, the film is as much a taut thrill-ride as it is a darkly insightful modern history lesson.

 

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