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A respected financial company is downsizing and one of the victims is the risk management division head, who was working on a major analysis just when he was let go. His protégé completes the study late into the night and then frantically calls his colleagues in about the company's financial disaster he has discovered. What follows is a long night of panicked double checking and double dealing as the senior management prepare to do whatever it takes to mitigate the debacle to come even as the handful of conscientious comrades find themselves dragged along into the unethical abyss. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The CEO's name, John Tuld, rhymes with the name of the ex-CEO of the now-defunct investment bank Lehman Brothers, Richard S. Fuld. Lehman Brothers, like the firm in this film, found themselves catastrophically over-leveraged in mortgage-backed-securities in the financial crisis of 2008. They eventually declared bankruptcy, and Richard Fuld was heavily criticized for his involvement in these events. See more »
When Ashley Williams asks Eric Dale to go for the firing interview, he walks ahead. When they arrive at the end of the short corridor, she is ahead. See more »
The movie "Margin Call" depicts the events that immediately preceded the Financial Crisis in 2008 within a nameless Investment Bank. What I like especially about the movie is the fact that it doesn't try to explain the technical causes of the Financial Crisis but the psychological causes - human failures, which are the real cause for the Crisis: greed, egotism, ignorance. Many scenes in this movie deal with very little dialogue, instead the body language and the unique atmosphere speaks for itself. The ensemble is just brilliant, especially Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons.
The movie works solely from inside the nameless firm apart from minor steps outside. It only portraits the people working inside this company
the "normal world" is completely left out. The effect is a very
clever one: The life of these bankers seems totally severed from the outside world, they have no real connection with normal people and seem to speaking exaggeratingly lack an understanding of real human values, that there could be more behind life than just maximizing and making money. They are completely left behind in their own world, which somehow got out of control. Even when the imminent truth reveals and the consequences are becoming more clearer, it always feels like they are cut off; there is a scene in a taxi with Quinto and Badgley that underlines this.
But one can also witness the cold-blooded atmosphere in the system itself, where every person could easily be mistaken as a number. A key figure of the film, Eric Dale, who gets sacked in the beginning, is confronted with two managers in a scene like from "Up In The Air". Either are these women robots or have never experienced something like social warmth. One widely held position is that eventually bankers themselves didn't understand their own system and products with Derivatives and Futures, etc. anymore. Almost hilarious, but sadly true is the fact that many people in these companies seem to have no understanding of Economics and just got into their position due to influence or money. When they are sitting in their conference room and discuss the incident, it feels somewhat grotesque.
Although this movie works almost completely without music, the tension is so immense - thanks to the brilliant actors - that one is forced to focus.
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