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Quietly gripping morality tale - a near perfect movie
mgorman-623 October 2011
Saw this last night. Set at a Wall Street firm on the night in 2008 when the leaders realize that changes in the market will wipe them out if they don't immediately stop selling the products that have been making them all rich, the movie centers on the moral dilemma - recognized by some characters but dismissed by others - that they face in unwinding their positions, saving themselves but shifting the pain to others.

The movie finds a way to hold the mirror up to our civilization, showing how we are all complicit in a collective 'dream' (one character says at one point, in response to another who says he feels like he is in a 'dream', 'Funny, it seems like I just woke up'). The dream is the illusion of easy, risk-managed wealth that the financial markets manufacture, again and again, since the emergence of capital markets 200 years ago, until the illusion morphs overnight into a panic. Reality intervenes, fear takes over, and the 'survivor' is the guy who first reaches the lifeboat. So there are no villains in this movie, just people, richly drawn, beautifully acted characters realized by some of our best actors who relish the opportunity to show what they can do given a killer script and enough screen time between lines to actually be the people they are portraying.

Central to the movie's success:

1) It gets across the essence of what is going on in the financial markets without bogging us down or dumbing it down

2) finding a moral question that can be resolved in a night, yet which is nevertheless a perfect allegory for the whole set of moral questions raised by an economy that works the way ours does, rewarding false confidence, recklessness, and deceit as often as industry, skill, and integrity

3) the placement of young, innocent but perceptive characters at the center of the drama, who function as our eyes and ears, who are like stand-ins for all of us who weren't there, at the heart of the dream machine, when the latest fantasy of easy wealth was exposed as a collective delusion

4) really 'gets' the trader ethos and manner - they are a kind of warrior caste, foul-mouthed, impulsive, deeply selfish, surviving by their ability to outplay their counterparts, and yet living by a warrior code that sets boundaries on what they will and will not do to one another (having spent three years on Wall Street several panics ago, it rang as true as any movie I have seen on the subject)

It's like Mamet, except you don't have to work as hard to figure out what everyone's up to. It's like Chinatown, except the 'crime' is something far worse than molesting a single young girl. These guys f****d the entire planet, for Ch*****sake. It's like the best movie I've seen in a little while.

What an incredibly sure hand from a director on his maiden voyage! Who is this guy? Whoever you are, please don't stop. I would pay a lot to see what he could do with topics like 'the decision to go to war', or 'the emergence of China/India/Brazil/Indonesia from poverty to global player'. Hell I would go see him revive Mother Goose, after this debut.

I'll calm down now. Enjoy.
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Great psychological insight
philipp8216 October 2011
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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Really good. Go see it.
endecottp24 March 2011
Saw this at New Directors festival in NYC and really enjoyed and was engrossed in this film. A great cast with splendid performances. The film is very intense and although it is about a company involved in the financial meltdown of 2008, it really is about much more. I particularly liked the way the film depicts the frightening absolute and ruthless power of the corporation over the lives of people that work there as well as the implications and ripples for everyone else.How those people get sucked in to the embrace, security and pleasures of what the corporations have to offer and the consequences and vulnerabilities of those choices.The freedom and comforts that we cherish here in twenty first century USA are not as secure as we might think. Don't want to say much more, other than that "Margin Call" is very involving and in the end affecting and thought provoking.It packs a powerful punch.
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First-Time Filmmaker Deftly Handles the Financial Meltdown on Human-Size Terms
Ed Uyeshima23 October 2011
Having been the victim of corporate downsizing more than once, I was immediately engaged with this propulsive 2011 corporate drama from the beginning as Stanley Tucci's character, a seasoned risk management executive named Eric Dale, is told in a coldly indifferent manner that he is being laid off after 19 years with the same unnamed Wall Street firm. It's a piercing yet dramatically economical scene that perfectly summarizes how bloodless the corporate world can be, and in first-time writer/director J.C. Chandor's effort set on the eve of the 2008 financial crisis , it is very cold indeed with 80% of the trading floor being let go. As Dale is escorted out of the building, he hands a flash drive to his prodigious assistant Peter Sullivan and tells him to take a look at it and "Be careful."

Once Sullivan analyzes the data, he realizes the universal gravity of Dale's warning - that the firm is so over-committed to underwater mortgage-backed securities that the total potential loss exceeds the firm's total market capitalization value. In other words, the projected scenario means the firm will soon owe a lot more than it's worth, and the market will be on the verge of an apocalyptic meltdown. What happens after this discovery is a series of sharply intense clandestine confrontations with each level of higher-ups recognizing the ramifications of the inevitable disaster, each one far more nuanced in character than we are used to seeing in films from Oliver Stone about greed and immorality. Blessedly, Chandor doesn't stoop to the customary stereotypes in this corporate cage match, but what he does manage is capture the moral compass underneath each player by way of a cast that really delivers the goods with powerfully implosive performances.

Zachary Quinto ("Star Trek") is initially at the center of the plot as Sullivan and performs well enough in the constraining, semi-heroic role, but the veterans really stand out here beginning with Kevin Spacey, who effectively plays against type as Sam Rogers, a genuine company man, the seen-it-all head of the trading team who rallies what's left of the trading floor with corporate brio but then faces his own cross to bear struggling to commandeer a fire sale of worthless assets dumped on unsuspecting clients. The other standout is Jeremy Irons, who masterfully resuscitates the cool cunning of his Claus von Bulow from "Reversal of Fortune" as the acerbically survivalist CEO John Tuld. He handily controls the boardroom scene with cutting humor and hostile precision. One of the film's more pleasant surprises is Demi Moore in cool, brisk form as Sarah Robertson, the top risk officer and lone female executive who knows her career is at stake with the discovery of this folly. Tucci is excellent in his smallish role as Dale and gets to show off his resigned character's engineering aptitude with a brief monologue about building a bridge.

Comparatively less impressive but playing their more predictable roles fitfully are Penn Badgley as Sullivan's younger, overtly money-obsessed colleague Seth Bregman; Paul Bettany as Dale's nihilistic, snake-oil salesman of a boss, Will Emerson; and Simon Baker as the most morally despicable executive of the bunch, Jared Cohen. Mary McDonnell has a brief and frankly unnecessary scene as Rogers' ex-wife, and I didn't even recognize the usually hilarious Broadway personality Susan Blackwell as the hatchet woman in the opening scene. There are a few flaws with Chandor's observant screenplay, for example, the overly analogous scenes of Rogers dealing with his dying dog and a rooftop scene that plays up Emerson's nihilistic nature too predictably. In addition, some scenes play either too murkily or too clinically to achieve the precise dramatic effect they should. I think the absence of a musical score also contributes to the sterility of the proceedings. However, as a first-time filmmaker, Chandor more than impresses with his deft handling of such a zeitgeist moment with the Occupy Wall Street protests gaining understandable momentum right now.
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the unofficial wall street sequel
kosmasp8 September 2011
While I am a big fan of Oliver Stone and I did enjoy his second Wall Street movie, I have to admit, that this one is superior in every way. Great acting talent at hand, great (unfortunately) real story, which might be a bit heightened for obvious reasons, but still very scary if you think about the whole thing.

As stated above the actors make a big difference. They have to convey decisions and stand by things that you shouldn't normally do. But then again it's not as if this didn't happen (one way or the other). The movie also seems to have affected people since its original slated release date got pushed forward. Festival releases (where I saw it too) and the general good response made that an easy decision. Watching this should be one too ...
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Fantastic film, but not for everyone.
Fred M. Hung23 October 2011
It's difficult to review Margin Call. Those of us who were close to the events of 2008 will find something personal in the story-telling. Others may see it as more examples of greed and hubris. In any case, the following observations apply to both groups.

The performances are top notch. Everyone from Zachary Quinto to Demi Moore brings their A-game. Even supporting characters are oddly fleshed out for a film with such an ensemble cast. Kevin Spacey and Paul Bettany give the performances of their careers, I think. Only the Jeremy Irons character (John Tuld, aka Dick Fuld) feels a bit over the top, while the rest are truly believable well-rounded depictions.

Despite having good characters and amazing cinematography, the film lacks plot. The backdrop and setting are tense, but this doesn't feel like a "movie" in the traditional sense. There's no evolution of characters, no arcs, and the ending may leave some wanting. You can compare it to Michael Mann films where plot and pace are unconventional.

Not sure how the film will perform commercially, given the material is esoteric. If you're a film buff (and enjoy great performances) or you've been in finance, this is a must-see. Other may likely pass.
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Perfect visualization of recent financial crisis, showing how people on all levels in the financial industry act and think
JvH4817 October 2011
I saw this film as part of the Ghent filmfestival 2011. Its announcement promised an inside view in the financial industry, and particularly how it could cause the recent financial crisis. And precisely this is what it did splendidly. I gave it a "very good"mark (5 out of 5) for the public prize competition when leaving the theater.

I particularly liked the way they avoided the techno babble about financial products, from which we all learned the hard way to be paper constructs only, none of these related with things in the real world. The story also clearly illustrates that higher echelons in the financial industry do not under­stand those technicalities either, something we assumed all along but didn't dare to ask for confirmation.

Departing from the very different purposes and backgrounds of the main characters, the story line got us involved in the attempts of each of them to cope with the situation at hand. Though their job motivations may drastically differ from yours and mine, this film had no really distinct good and bad guys.

The main characters were properly introduced in the time-line when logically needed. We got the chance to know each of them, with their own coping behavior in this volatile environ­meant, yet every­one bringing along his own human characteristics. In the process we also saw the golden chains to attach each of them to the company, making it virtually impossible to cut themselves loose from this line of work. We may call it greed, but it is a fact of life that everyone gets used to incoming cash flow, however large and unnecessary it may seem in our eyes. Once being there, it is logical to buy a bigger house and to send kids to expensive schools. After that there is no easy way back, and each one smoothly grows into a life style that is difficult to escape from.

The story line as such is not that important, apart from the fact that it succeeds very well in tying all the above together. It also maintains a constant tension all the time. I consider both aspects an achievement in itself, since nothing really happens in terms of dead bodies, physical fights, and chasing cars. Only a few short scenes were shot outside, but all the rest happened in a standard office building. The final outdoor scene was a bit unexpected (I won't spoil it for you), but it shows that even bankers are human after all.
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"Margin Call" is Well Acted with a Tense Tone
ptg72330 June 2011
If you want to witness an acting clinic put on by an incredibly talented ensemble cast, look no further than J.C. Chandor's take on the beginnings of the 2008 financial crisis. The film follows an unnamed firm, which awakens to the reality of the economic catastrophe that was to come. The tense emotion of the situation was held steady by the ensemble throughout the film. Bettany, Quinto, and Badgley, all turned in superb performances, but it was Tucci, Spacey, and Irons that stood out as excellent. It was witnessing the brink of a tragedy that draws parallels to the 2006 film, "Flight 93" (minus the deep heartbreak "93" leaves us with). For "Margin Call", the storyline and setting may be repetitive but not enough to let you sit back and zone out.
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Great insight into the fall of Wall Street
elaineandjim13 October 2011
This film was a great follow up to Inside Job, which described the big picture and background of the 2008 fall of the investment industry. Margin Call zooms in on the workings and the actual down and dirty business of one of the main (but unnamed) brokerage houses. This film captured our attention and interest, while heightening our "concerns" over the reality portrayed. The agony and defeat of the hard working, loyal employees was displayed in their faces and body language, lending to our empathy for the staff being "used", while abhorring the situation. The twenty four hour workplace dilemma is told and carried out realistically, with time flying for the totally engaged viewer.
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"So That...We...May...Survive!"
freecrafted23 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
So here goes my first review on IMDb.

This is a movie for those that want to see the human element when an investment bank realizes their models are wrong and that they are sitting on a large amount of assets worth less than they are currently marked at.

There are 2 errors that just about everybody is making about this movie, though. The first is that this movie is about the September 2008 financial crash. That is false. This movie is about the collapse of the CDO/MBS market in *2007*(what led to I-Banks going belly up in 08). That also didn't happen in 1 day(while there were some very bad days), it occurred over several months. Google "ABX Index" and select images and you'll see that for yourself. But for the interest of time and simplicity "Margin Call" simplified the actions of firms over those several months into 1 day and the actions of dozens(if not hundreds) of people into a handful which is understandable.

The second error is that this nameless firm is one of the I-banks that went under or was sold like Lehman, Bear, Merrill, etc. The movie is clearly (in my mind at least) modeled after Goldman Sachs. The first reason is because they are seen as the first I-bank to aggressively try to scale back their exposure to MBS. The second reason would be a spoiler, but lets just say that Goldman is pretty aggressive at "making way for new blood" relative to the others even though the movies depiction was way overblown.

I think many will be happy to know that the amount of "inside lingo" is kept to a minimum, but that doesn't mean that you will be able to understand a handful of things mentioned without a pretty good cursory knowledge of financial jargon. Don't worry though its not needed to understand the movie.

For those that are looking for a story depicting causes of the financial crisis this movie isn't it. If your looking for a movie depicting evil people conniving in a board room to screw over the public this isn't it.

This movie is about an analyst who discovers that the volatility assumptions in their MBS portfolio were false and that it could very easily take down the entire company. Its a movie depicting the increasingly suspenseful and gripping atmosphere when a firm realizes they are sitting on a large pile of illiquid assets worth less than they thought. Its a movie depicting the concern of particular players that their reputation will be shot when they are forced to market make assets that will "kill the market" for MBS.

Its a movie that depicts the actions of a firm "So that...they...may...survive."

Acting was great. Direction was great. Script was decent! Watch this movie if you want to understand the most accurate depiction so far of the types of characters inside Investment Banks during a scary period.
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Cold, calculating, the real Wall Street
Warning: Spoilers
Watching this movie was like sitting in a meeting with VCs, Investors, and C-Level executives. I've been through a few of those meetings, and I easily recognize the personalities. They're not exactly likable, animated, nor warm, but they are singularly focused on one thing: making money.

And so goes the tale of an unnamed financial brokerage that, thanks to the analysis of a young trader played by "Star Trek" and "Heroes" star Zachary Quinto, realizes that the Mortgage Backed Securities that it is holding has placed it in a precarious position that is close to, if not already, underwater. The storm unravels in a single 24 hour-plus period, and the outcome, well, we can just look at the real world markets to see the outcome.

What's really fascinating to watch here is the interests and motivations of the individuals, because as much as this is a character piece, it's also an essay on the pitfalls of short term motivation. People who know too much are paid a million dollars to sit quietly in a room for a day and not talk. Traders are offered a bonus of $1.4M to meet a personal quota to sell assets they know are junk, with an additional $1.3M per person if the whole floor hits quota. An executive loses 60% of his team, and cries because his dog is dying, yet never thinks to call his son (also implied to be in finance) to share the news of the pending crash. Execs view what they're doing as the inevitable ebb and flow of the tide, waxing about the constant distribution of wealthy and poor, how the numbers will never change, and how the fallout is ultimately yet another opportunity to buy low soon and sell high later.

And that's just it. Separated from the world (barely a single character unrelated to the firm has any screen time or speaking role), focused on their personal short term gains (one broker obsesses over the annual salaries of his superiors), and trapped in a situation where everyone is convinced that they "need the money", selfish people act in their own self interest.

Margin Call plays like a documentary. The world is ruined, but the folks behind it take care of each other, even when they're offering up a sacrificial lamb. It's never personal, it's just business, and despite the turmoil you can imagine that the same people will be in the same room making the same calls a decade from now, leading us down the same path and shrugging it off as just the way things are.
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top flight, but not for the usual reasons
smfilm9 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I liked the movie, but that's because I've been an executive and a trader and immediately understood the implications, characters, motivations etc.

A junior analyst does some math and discovers a comet is about to hit them, they decide to let the peasants die so they can get out of the way, end of story.....

The real story, however, is yanking the veneer off the business so we the public can see how nonchalantly and arrogantly the people in real power in our country will devise a way to take money from us, then throw us to the wolves when it blows up.

That's why you've got a top flight cast doing this movie for nothing.

From that perspective it is a great look into what was probably happening at numerous firms involved in the MBS / CDO mess that started the current recession/ depression.

The casting was spot on for the various positions, their acting esp with regard to their motivations about money, career, and doing the right thing were pitch perfect....

So if you are looking for great acting showing what it was very probably like in real life, this movie delivers in a big way and includes a bunch of artful symbolism.

You guys should love it for being the truth it is.
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An acting showcase that runs a little thin.
Rockwell_Cronenberg22 October 2011
This is a film that is sure to get some comparisons to Glengarry Glen Ross and as a deconstruction of stoic men hitting a breaking point, it does offer a similar kind of study (albeit not nearly as good) with a fantastic cast of great male actors. As it starts out, it seemed like the story was going to give some attention to the moral complexities that must have occurred with men in this position (the investment brokers on the eve of the financial crisis), but as the film progresses it turns more and more into an acting showcase with a little bit of focus on the ramifications of what they were involved in.

I feel that someone like Sorkin could have given it a lot more bite, but as it stands it still works as a fine display of some solid acting skills. Paul Bettany, despite a horrendously confusing and uneven accent, gives one of the best performances of his career. Stanley Tucci isn't in it much, but he absolutely steals every scene he has. Simon Baker and Jeremy Irons are expertly ruthless and Kevin Spacey gives us a glimpse of that talent he displayed in the '90s that has been far too absent this past decade. The film peaks too early, leaving a final act that drags quite a bit, and there's a symbolic subplot with Spacey's dog that is embarrassingly heavy-handed, but it's certainly worth watching if only for the chance to watch a great male cast do their thing.
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ezriderz25 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I was hoping for something more informed and informing, as well as exciting and compelling in this movie. Unfortunately, both my wife and myself felt that it lacked some requisite elements of an enjoyable movie. It kept talking around things instead of actually coming out and saying what they were talking about. It was hard to follow at times because of the innuendo. It was almost like hearing sentences without subjects or action verbs. And very little was revealed about the actual nature of the financial crisis other than their formulas were broken. I wanted more.

The ending was weak to say the least. It just ended with the Spacey character burying his dead dog in his ex-wife's yard while she tells him that he doesn't live there anymore. Then into the credits with no real resolution. It may have been realistic, but not satisfying.

Compared to Fair Game or Inside Job, I felt this was considerably weaker given the strong cast members. Bad screenplay in my opinion.
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Made me want to burn down a bank
lauragustine23 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This film presents us with a group of traders who discover that, oops, they may have made a teeny, weeny error and are about to crash the bank, plunge the Western world into recession and cost millions of people their jobs and homes.

As they scrabble to save their sorry backsides the film makers clearly hope that the viewer will feel sorry for them. This on the rather thin grounds that: 1. they're all terribly good-looking; 2. they're only doing what they've been told to do; 3. trading and making obscene amounts of money is 'all they've ever wanted to do' (yup, stand back, this guy has a dream); 4. the people they work for are even more hideous than they are.

In a desperate bid to extract some sympathy from the viewer Kevin Spacey cries over his dead dog and attempts to flee the impending chaos, only to be reined back in by CEO Jeremy Irons. Mr Irons is allowed to retain his British accent to ensure that the American audience will immediately realize that he is a being of pure unadulterated evil. He snacks casually while Rome burns and offers Kevin a slice of puppy sandwich while insisting he sticks around to make yet more money.

Well, these are the people who rule the world, film studios included, so I suppose they have to try to make you believe that they have redeeming qualities.

Even if you don't, they all got off Scot free anyway so what you think of them is really of very little importance.
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Low credibility and entirely pointless
goldconch24 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
There really isn't any point in making a re-enactment unless you truly understand what happened, or are prepared to put a new spin on what is widely known. This film fails to do that. The problem here is that we (the audience) know the story better than the screenwriter. We know that MBSs and fixed income derivatives were not sensitive to stock events, it was the other way around. We know that there isn't a Margin Call triggered in the entire film. Forgiving the liberal factual inaccuracies, we continue to watch beyond the first 15 minutes on the promise of this ensemble cast. We wait and wait for the movie to begin with long panning shots of vacant Bloomberg terminals (wondering why the overnight bond and Euro desk guys aren't there), and endure the dreaded lamentations of the soon-to-be-terminated, interspersed with overt broker stereotyping, pointless compensation comparisons, people eating donuts, shaving, and sleeping uncomfortably in the office. The pace is glacial, the writing is boring, and it's hard to care about any of the characters.
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Great actors but limited tension
SnoopyStyle25 October 2013
A financial investment company is facing possible meltdown as they face bank breaking write downs of their securities. As the discovery of the risk spreads, all the company men/woman scramble to save the company and their own jobs.

The list of great actors is quite impressive. They all work brilliantly as an ensemble. Nobody is really a standout only because everybody does a good job. I wish that they had more interest material to work with.

This is a minimalist style movie. It's not only the setting, but also everything else. There's just isn't anything eye opening. The story of financial meltdown has been raked over with a fine tooth comb. We all known how this thing is ending. There's no surprises here. The only way to do this story is to do the REAL story. This is no more than an imitation of the real thing.
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Good movie, but plot is very (very) "naive"
andrew westport23 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Honestly, I think that this movie (which, don't get me wrong, is a very good movie) just tries to make as much noise as possible and benefit from the "anti-banking" trend that we are seeing nowadays.

And the main fact for that is the name: "margin call". Well, there is no single margin call in the movie. The plot has actually nothing to do with margin calls.

Without entering into details, basically one analyst of a big bank discovers that the mark-to-model that the bank is using for certain mortgage products (they own) is calculated using the wrong volatility and, should they use the right input, the company is bankrupt. So, before everyone realises that the value of those assets is much lower... should they sell them? knowing that, if they sell, they will kill the market (which certainly happened), but at least if they go first they can survive (it is better to be first and sell @ 75 cents on the dollar... rather than being last and selling @ 15 cents).

Well, you know what they did and you know what happened. So, for all those people saying that this is a movie about Lehman Brothers, it is NOT. Actually (but just my opinion), it would be more someone like GS.

Finally, if you think that such mess (in such a big bank) can be triggered "because one analyst discovers that the bank is using the wrong volatility"... give me a break...
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Fixing a Hole
David Ferguson22 October 2011
Greetings again from the darkness. It is absolutely understandable if you have reached your limit for dissecting and analyzing the 2008 financial crisis. However, if you can't get enough, or are still trying to find someone to blame for looting half your retirement plan, this film offers a different perspective and one that proves more personal.

Hopefully you saw "Inside Job", a fine documentary that provided an overview of the collapse. HBO's "Too Big To Fail" gave us a glimpse inside the Fed's decision making process during the crisis. This movie narrows the focus down to a singular investment bank. Writer/Director JC Chandor serves up a dramatized story that begins with massive layoffs. We see the hatchet crew arriving replete with security escorts, as high paid executives are led out to the sidewalk. Stanley Tucci plays a middle manager in the Risk-Analysis department. As he is headed to the curb, he hands a flash drive to one of his young analysts (Zachary Quinto) and tells him to finish it and "be careful".

Flash forward a few hours and the surviving staff heads out for celebratory drinks while Quinto's character starts churning away on Tucci's formula. Once he realizes that the risk formulas on MBS (mortgage backed securities) have threatened the stability of the firm, he places an emergency call. It is quite interesting to see how this emergency escalates as we are introduced, one rung at a time, to the hierarchy within the firm ... Paul Bettany, Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore, Simon Baker. This culminates in a late night conference room meeting when the CEO (Jeremy Irons) arrives by helicopter.

There are so many facets to this story. We see how some are in the game for money. Penn Badgley says it's all he ever wanted to do, but his obsessive behavior over the income of each manager shows us why. Paul Bettany is a middle manager who realizes the "killers" such as Simon Baker have passed him by. Demi Moore plays the type who doesn't mind finding a fall guy, as long as it's not her. Kevin Spacey is 30+ year career man who has survived many crisis by being loyal to the firm, while also doing right by the client. Jeremy Irons is the charming, powerful CEO who laughs about being as smart as a Golden Retriever, but laser-focused on keeping the firm viable.

What you can't help but notice is the number of managers who point out that they don't understand the charts and graphs and numbers, and just need someone to explain it to them in "plain English". We also see self-preservation at its finest/worst and the struggle that some of the characters have in deciding what is the "right thing to do". It is not surprising, yet frightening still, to see that the red flags were flying before anyone acknowledged their presence.

When the CEO says the three ways to win are to: "be first, be smartest or cheat", we realize huge decisions are made only in the best interest of the firm ... not the economy, and certainly not an individual investor. Although this investment firm remains nameless through the film, I did find it interesting that Irons' character name is John Tuld. John Tuld ... Dick Fuld ... Just sayin'
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And the Oscars don't go to... Margin Call
Artemis-911 March 2012
I'll concede this picture is not better than The Artist (Best Picture Oscar 2012), but it's damn much closer than the competing nominees.

Kevin Spacey in Margin Call (2011) goes through a number of inner changes with flying colours, and less make-up and wardrobe aids than Jean Dujardin (Actor in a leading role Oscar 2012).

Demi Moore in Margin Call shows a bit of leg and a big talent, both saying her lines and when she has no lines to say - which in my book is at least nomination material comparable if not better than, the cloning of an iron lady with due respect to Maryl Streep (Actress in a leading role Oscar 2012).

Paul Bettany is surprisingly good as a top villain, and that should have been awarded instead of keeping rewarding established names like Christopher Plummer (Actor in a supporting role Oscar 2012).

I'll not contend that Mary McDonnell's work in Margin Call, reduced to a marginal role of 3 minutes at best, was better than the much helpful support by Octavia Spencer in The Help (Actress in a supporting role Oscar 2012). And yet you won't forget her role, soon.

New York by night was never so well photographed than by Frank G. DeMarco, but he lost it to a common x-effects based work as Emmanuel Lubezki's The Tree of Life got it (Cinematography Oscar 2012).

John Paino and Robert Covelman created dull office spaces that we endure for over 100 minutes without feeling bored (24 hours in an office building, that's something!), allowing for fluidity of movement of actors and cameras alike. They create realism that is more difficult than the fantastic scenarios of Hugo by Dante Ferretti and Francesca LoSchiavo (Art Direction Oscars 2012 for Production Design and Set Decorator).

Carolin Duncan may have done a discreet job, but each actor and actress is dressed up - or down - according to the moment with precision and respect for him/her status in the organization - deserving as much as Mark Bridges with his glamorous The Artist (Costume Design Oscar 2012).

What did J.C. Chandor lack to deserve an award in comparison to the rather trivial (excuse me!) Michel Hazanavicius? (Directing Oscar 2012).

Pete Beaudreau did a wonderful job, so as you won't notice is presence in Margin Call - what would have been a good reason to award him instead of maybe Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall (Film Editing Oscar 2012).

I'd have elected Erin Ayanian and Fabiola Arancibia for their work on Demi Moore, rather the overdone makeup of Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland on their Iron Lady (Makeup Oscar 2012).

Nathan Larson discreet, varied, mood creation, imaginative music certainly beats the expected score by Ludovic Bourse (Original Score Oscar 2012), and probably all other nominees, hands down.

Most of all, J.C. Chandor was robbed of award and nomination for his original screenplay that is what the people should be exposed to, to understand the reality of the last three years with a perspective that goes through 7 centuries, with a dialogue that all actors delivery naturally, because they were very careful written by someone who knew what he was writing about! Several dialogues of this screenplay should be mandatory study in Acting and Finance Schools. So, with due respect to the old hand of Woody Allen (Original Screenplay Oscar 2012) I'll contend that the nominee Chandor should have got the trophy.

Summing up:

1. I do not understand how come Margin Call did not get a single statuette. 2. I am confirmed in my conceited opinion that good movies are rarely rewarded by the Oscar crowd.

PS - This film is rated R, probably because of the repeated use of the F**k word, despite the characters saying the expletive or the verb are subjected to unbearable psychological and economic pressure. I appeal to all minors of 21 or 18 or whatever, to sneak in and watch this movie. You will know what your favourite TV station and your favourite political leader has not told you these last three years.
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Yawn - Give me back my 1,5 hours..
promo_scan30 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this labelled as a thriller. There is nothing thrilling about this movie. The closest we get is one of Spaceys many crying scenes over the death of his dog that takes place over the dead dog itself. And really that was not much of a thrill.

I saw it with a mate that holds a bachelor in economics and I myself hold a masters in economics and international business management. To say that the subject interests us would be to put it mildly.

I am also a great fan of Jeremy Irons and Kevin Spacey and to a lesser extent I enjoy the work of Tucci, Betthany and Simon Baker. So its not the cast that is at fault in my book.

No its an insanely boring and pointless script that does nothing to interest its viewers. The premise is that somebody finally figured out that a economic downturn is about to happen, apparently only Jeremy Irons is old enough to remember that these things do happen once every 20 years or so. The guy that figures it out is at the bottom of the food chain which allows the movie to spend roughly 70% of its play time introducing a new boss that can be flabbergasted at the young gents numbers. Each succession of bosses react mostly the same and by the end you are surprised that they don't call the President of the US nor the British queen to let them know what is going down, everybody else is let in on it.

Then you get to wallow a bit in the moral scruples a few of the characters. But they are fictional, working in an unnamed fictional company, so I don't really care.

Up to the end we kept hoping there was more to this movie.. A twist, a crime, a plot.. Anything.. But no.. At least the movie stays true to its docile form and does not try to end with a climax or the like. No we get to see Spacey crying yet again over his dead dog and digging a hole for it and symbolically for the economy. Ohh greatness! I give it a two for all the great actors where some of them actually give a mediocre performance at best.
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Dances around brilliance, but never finds it.
saltman9524 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Have to say I was disappointed as is often the case movies about Wall Street, save for the original Wall Street.

This is very much in the mold of Glengarry Glen Ross as someone correctly pointed out earlier. I will agree that the acting was for the most part very solid. I thought Simon Baker and Jeremy Irons stood head and shoulders above everyone else.

If you work in the industry, this movie will frustrate you. First of all, it will take you no time to figure out the film has nothing to do with margin calls and but rather trading desk operations. The technical aspects are pretty accurate, but they never really fully explain the true nature of the issue.

The film lacks a protagonist and for that matter antagonist. Everyone is just sort of there, which is real, but not real entertaining. In my opinion this film is little more than a collection of well acted scenes that struggle when put together.

And no this firm did not act in a manner similar to Lehman, but closer to Goldman as someone already pointed out.
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Very disappointing...
inframan4 November 2011
I was really looking forward to this after reading reviews in the NY Times & other places. But one more time I got set up.

I think I've been spoiled for inside looks at the workings of contemporary business by The Social Network. Where is the excitement in Margin Call? Where's the energy that has gotten these people to the precipice they're about to tumble off? The characters in this movie are so generic they could have walked out of an old Hollywood war horse like Executive Suite.

It has a talented crew of actors but I never for a minute got the feeling any of them had a clue about the actual workings of the business they were in. A good part of the blame goes to the lazy script. The higher ups in these firms would have been well aware of the rocket scientists in their ranks because they were the guys hired to invent the very financial instruments that brought it all down. Here they're whiny junior analysts running financial models.
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sergepesic30 December 2012
Alas, this is not a movie for empty thrill seekers. You know, those kind of movies that after seeing first 15 minutes, you can take a stroll through the park, smoke half a pack of cigarettes, make few calls, come back to the movie theater and you didn't miss anything. This is a different kind of movie. Smart, deeply focused, discreet. Without cheep thrills and big splashes, in small clear gestures, it perfectly describes the bottomless pit we fell into.The world ran by the immoral elite of gangsters or sociopaths. People that can not make anything, help anyone or improve something, make more money than the rest of us together. The only thing worst than communism is this hysterical, out of control capitalism. And, believe me, I lived in both.
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Great actors, flat story
criscal23 August 2011
I have seen the movie in the sneak preview, so I didn't know what to expect from this movie. The boss of a young risk analyst (Quinto) is getting fired "Up in the air"-style, before being able to finish what turns out to be a very important analysis. He throws the (usb-)stick with the data to Quinto with the words "be careful". Quinto works on the data and finds out, what could be the start of a REAL thriller. Instead the audience is getting a movie that can't decide whether it wants to be a thriller or an interesting documentary fiction of the financial crisis. Another lack of the story is that it doesn't have a lead character. Every character is allowed to bring up his feeling and/or motivations as if to show all the humans behind the media-generated mask of banksters. There is nobody to sympathize with even. Kevin Spacey's character is given the biggest opportunity to create such sympathy or interest. The most memorable scene though is where the audience is tempted to think that he is about to cry because of having to let so many people go, while it turns out that actually his dog is dying. My bet is, that the excellent cast of actors got lured in by a promise of making something like "Wall Street". I wouldn't blame the director for this flat movie - the script itself doesn't give much more really.
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