Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review: "Margin Call"

For a film that boasts so many well known actors and touts itself as a psuedo-thriller, nothing really seems to happen.  That's not to say that the interest isn't there, certainly the filmmakers have managed to make things engaging by playing on the sense of urgency this one night has to offer (the entire film takes place over the course of a day and a half) but ultimately we end up at the end of they day, in a somewhat similar place to where we started.  There's something comforting in that.

Margin Call finds its anchor in its three male leads: Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto and Penn Badgley, whose perspective is almost exclusively followed as the world around them temporarily spins out of control.  We begin the film on the trading floor of a more than century old investment bank which has been forced (due to economic pressure) to begin laying off its staff.  Nearly 80% of the staff on this floor will be let go today and among their numbers is senior risk assessment specialist Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci).  Before he leaves, Dale hands over a USB drive to Peter Sullivan (Quinto), one of his former employees and tells him to take a look at it.  Dale's information leads to a cataclysmic chain of events in which the firm scrambles to save itself from irreparable damage.

The key to this films success is that it doesn't try to make the characters choose sides and here is where it is most successful.  There is only a question of how the characters will take action, not whether they are good or bad people as a result.  I find that to be very refreshing, especially in a landscape where most commercial films will simplify their characters such that any action they take is the pronouncement of who they are as a person rather than being an indication of mindset or motivation.

Ultimately the film was enjoyable, well acted and an acceptable use of my evening.  I wouldn't say it's the most dynamic film I've ever seen but it did the best with what it had.  If you're interested in finance at all I would say to check it out, and if you're not, it's still worth a look if you've already seen the other options in theatres.

My rating: 2.75 out of 4

1 comment:

  1. I would have given the film a stronger rating since I have been thinking quite a lot about it today. All I keep imagining is what happened after the credits rolled. The film did its job. I was hooked, I wanted to know more.