Film: Margin Call
Due Out: October 2011
Cast includes: Kevin Spacey (Se7en), Paul Bettany (The Da Vinci Code), Jeremy Irons (Being Julia), Zachary Quinto (Star Trek), Penn Badgley (Gossip Girl), Simon Baker (The Mentalist), Mary McDonnell (Dances with Wolves), Demi Moore (Ghost), Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada), Aasif Mandvi (The Daily Show)
Writer/Director: J.C. Chandor (This is his debut feature film)
Genre: Drama/Financial Thriller (2011)
“Jesus Christ. Are they going to do it right here?” Peter and Seth have never been through a Wall Street blood bath before. The answer is yes… and today is going to be a rough day. Before it’s over, the layoff team will eliminate most of the floor. “Excuse me, Mr. Dale. This way please.” That’s how Eric Dale knows he’s being cut. “We need to take certain measures that may seem punitive,” they tell him. Dale is to go straight back to his office and clear out. No computer access. No cell phone service. No nothing. They soften the blow by handing him a booklet entitled “Looking Ahead” with a sailboat on the cover. “I was just in the middle of a lot of shit right now. Someone needs to take a look at it,” Dale tells them. “It’s not your problem anymore,” they answer.
When Dale’s analyst, Peter, meets him at the elevator to say thanks and good-bye, Dale hands him a flash drive. As the elevator doors close, Dale’s parting words are “Be careful.” When the carnage is over, Sam Rogers needs to give an inspirational speech to boost morale among the survivors. Sam’s tears aren’t for those eliminated; the tears are for his dying dog. (Everyone has priorities, after all.) At the end of the day when the survivors head off to The Grand for drinks, Peter stays behind. He needs to get a look at what’s on that flash drive Dale handed him. It’s a little confusing at first, but as we soon learn, Peter’s brilliant. When he works it out, it’s an OMG moment.
Peter contacts Seth and Sam by 10:00 that night. Before midnight, upper management is on their way to the office. The only person who can’t be reached is Dale… they cut off his cell phone and he’s not at home. Before long, the firm… and the filmmakers… have a cast of top talent working on this dilemma. There’s a lot of financial talk flying around, and it’s to the filmmaker’s credit that it’s dramatic and impactful… even if we don’t understand every “historical volatility limit.” If this is the kind of cast writer/director J.C. Chandor attracts on his first feature film, one wonders who he’s lined up for his next film. “When all is said and done, the firm doesn’t lose money… even if everyone else does.” We wonder if anyone cares who’ll get hurt when this thing implodes?
3 popped kernels
Modern-day killings don’t have to be done with guns… a phone call from your stockbroker can be just as lethal.
Rated: Not yet
Primary Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Appeal: Any audience
Distribution: Mainstream limited release
Mood: Neither upbeat nor somber
Tempo: Cruses comfortably
Character development: Engaging
Visual Style: Nicely varnished realism
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Timely topic