Gripping look at meltdown

00:00, May 17 2012

Margin Call
M, 1hr 47min
Reviewed by Peter Lampp.

A wise Palmerstonian whispered to me as I took my seat: "Keep your money in the bank".

After 107 minutes of this independent United States drama set over a 36-hour period, he was on the money.

It is loosely based on Lehman Brothers investment bankers who collapsed in 2008, sunk by corporate greed, so we sort of know the recessional story. Worth waiting for are the bailout scenes as we listen to realistic phone conversations between brokers.

The always suave Jeremy Irons, playing the desperate company boss, wasn't on the money as his company headed to hell. There's a noteworthy line in which he said money was just paper with people's faces on it.

Then came this: "There are three ways to make a living in this business. Be first, be smarter, or cheat."


They weren't the first two, so guess the rest. The movie's strength is its clever script, and it has to be considering most of the dialogue takes place inside the sterile, glassed, darkened offices overlooking the Hudson River.

It is a very verbal movie, with plentiful effing, of course. The original screenplay received an Academy Award nomination.

It has an A-list cast playing overpaid corporate cats essentially selling fresh air. They do panic well.

As the company goes down, investment bankers are marched out of the building, accompanied by a goon and carrying their white cardboard boxes.

Stanley Tucci plays the part of Eric Dale, a risk management executive sacked by two wooden women in the most heart-rending scene in the film.

As he exits, Dale hands a flash drive to young analyst Peter Sullivan (played by Zachary Quinto), who soon finds doomsday is near when he deciphers the data.

Kevin Spacey, as head trader Sam Rogers, is just as traumatised by his sick dog at home. How sick is that?

Margin Call could also apply to the collapse of our finance companies. There are blue flashing screens and young turks everywhere.

Presumably, the husky Demi Moore was brought in to add a woman's voice, while it was odd that two Englishmen, Irons and Paul Bettany, played lead roles in a very "New Yoik" firm.

Manawatu Standard