My response to Margin Call is tough to break down into words. Not because of how the film makes all this technical mumbo-jumbo relatable, but the moral implications that arise from a look at about thirty-six hours at an investment banking firm during a financial crisis. The screenwriting and directing debut of J.C. Chandor is an accomplishment in all of its filmmaking elements- cinematography, acting, and as I pointed out, writing and directing. The movie feels like a hybrid of all the things that made films like 12 Angry Men, Glengarry Glen Ross, Wall Street, and Too Big to Fail manage to work. There is a tension created from something that on the surface seems so cut-and-dry. With this stellar cast giving gravitas to the dialogue, you have another film that manages to feel so lively while dealing with a topic that can be both fascinating and overbearing.
A layed off employee (Stanley Tucci) in risk management, manages to slip a thumb drive to one of his employees (Zachary Quinto) of something he was working on before the firing. The data on the drive shows that the firm isn't headed into a financial crisis, but that it has already passed that point and in another twelve to twenty-four hours, will be too far out of the control of any of the traders. A solid number is never given on the damages that will be faced and in fact it took me a little while longer, than perhaps those versed in this world, to understand what exactly the problem was.
The film is just so well-acted. The cast also includes Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore, and Aasif Mandvi. There are scenes where at least eight of the principal actors are in a room together and the result is the ever developing intensity that may cause the film to peak a little early, but I was too in awe of the delivery of some of these monologues and dialogues that I didn't really pick up on the early climax well after I had left the theater. As I mentioned- the music, cinematography, and editing only adds to the drama (a pleasant surprise considering how it was overseen by a director making his debut). I truly felt like I was "in-the-know" when it came to the moments where important decisions that could affect a character's life were made.
Maybe I've just been too busy to write reviews directly after I watch a movie, but I still feel like no matter how much time has passed between when I finished watching the movie and started writing this response, that I still don't feel like I've truly cracked the complexity of the film. Maybe the complexity is all just my perception of it. Either way, I wholeheartedly recommend this just for the caliber of the performances with special recognition to Spacey, Bettany, Irons, Quinto, and Tucci.