Margin Call: Better than The Big Short

This stock market crash drama gets it right.

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Margin Call was a painfully disturbing film that hung around inside your head for days. The cast was uniformly excellent, especially Stanley Tucci, who only had 3 scenes but nailed each one.

Lionsgate Entertainment

His rant about the number of years he saved in people’s lives by building a large bridge was legendary and must of flattened the crew on set that day. Spacey, Irons, Bettany, Quinto and Baker are all very good. This film doesn’t pick a side on the financial crisis. It just paints the walls with the blood shed that day mentally and physically. This script and direction plays like a David Mamet play, Glengarry Glen Ross 2 for example. Powerful piece of movie magic that expertly combines star power and gritty storytelling.

There was no one party to blame that day, so why point a finger. Irons chief of the firm coming in and telling Spacey’s soldier on the front line, “This has been happening since the beginning of civilization. We overextend ourselves, regroup and keep on spending. Its the way of the land.” I am definitely watching this again and a third time just to soak in the magic. This is a film that reminds you how important original ideas are in Hollywood. Fuck 3D and a remake. Give me a story with blood hanging from the page.

Margin Call is one of the best movies of 2011 and a modern classic that sticks to your gut and lies on your bones far after the end credits roll out. Margin Call is a disturbingly great movie. A calculating, tough love packaged slow pot boiling look at the wreckage of the economic collapse in 2008. “Remember this day, gentlemen. Remember this day,” Kevin Spacey’s risk management firm manager pleads to his staff.

A film about an epic economic oversight at one firm that led to a fire sale that led to a worldwide economic collapse that happened in 2008 but as stated by Jeremy Irons’ chief near the end, “This happens all the time and we never learn from it. 1901, 1974, 1939, 2001 and so on. Money is just paper that keeps us from killing each other for a meal.” The tight 110 minute film here examines the events that took place the night before, where everything changed and leaves the bullshit elsewhere. The main problem here is greed, and as stated, we have done this to ourselves several times over the years. Leveraged too much, spent too much and got greedy and had to start over.

Margin Call gets under your skin in a painful way. You see the building of economic wealth slowly collapse in this story because facts were avoided. How often do we hurt ourselves by denying the facts and taking a risk? A great cast including Stanley Tucci, Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Simon Baker, Zachary Quinto and Irons works this very provocative and deeply personal script like pros. Every actor is suited to the role. A script is Mamet like and flies smooth without pulling a punch. There’s a calm pace to this movie. Watch it. Don’t ask questions. Just watch. The beginning of the financial crisis started right here, in a lions den full of people trying to maintain control over the world.

“You’re selling something that you know has no value.”-Sam(Spacey)
“We’re selling it to survive.”-Irons
“There are three ways to make a living in this business. Be first, be smarter or cheat.”-Irons

Scene of the Film-Stanley Tucci’s character, Eric Dale, is fired in the beginning of the movie, an event that triggers the rest of the plot and sets the film in motion. Tucci’s character is a risk analyst working on a program that he gets fired before he can finish, so he hands the flash drive to a younger analyst Peter(Zachary Quinto) to finish. Peter punches in the numbers and finds out that the company is way in over its head and the finances are slipping. The irony of the film is Dale is fired on the day where his actions come into play in a big way.

The entire film sees all the key players trying to track down Dale, who hasn’t come home and has run off to a corner of the city to soak in his dismissal. He is one of those hard workers who unfortunately got cut by circumstance and not performance. When Will Emerson(Bettany) finally catches up to Dale, the two men sit on a poach and Dale tells him he once designed and built a bridge that saved people over 150,000 miles of driving and kept them out of a car for a combined total of 1,051 years when all the traffic and miles were combined. It’s a wonderful rant that doesn’t define the film yet shows a shade of the effort of the people who lost their job.

Great movies do that to you. They connect a real life truth inside a fictional world with our brains and engage our mind. Margin Call achieved that and will make me go back and watch it again just to appreciate the smaller moments. Imagine if I tried to sell you a phone that I knew didn’t work but I needed to get rid of in order to survive. That’s what these firms did in 2008. They sold everything and lost every ounce of trust their buyers had in them. I’ll go back for that. The acting. The message. The moral. The real deal.

Author: D. Buffa

A regular guy who feels a journalistic hunger to tell the news. I blog because its wired into my brain to write what I think in print. I offer an opinion. A solo tour here. Take regular stories and offer my spin on them. Sports, film, television, music, fatherhood, culture, food, and so on. Commentary on everything. A St. Louis native and Little Rock resident who wants to write just to keep the hands fresh and ready.

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