Margin Call – 2011

4.5 Stars

Synopsis: A thriller that revolves around the key people at a investment bank over a 24-hour period during the early stages of the financial crisis.

Kevin Spacey … Sam Rogers
Paul Bettany … Will Emerson
Jeremy Irons … John Tuld
Zachary Quinto … Peter Sullivan
Penn Badgley … Seth Bregman
Simon Baker … Jared Cohen
Mary McDonnell … Mary Rogers
Demi Moore … Sarah Robertson
Stanley Tucci … Eric Dale
Aasif Mandvi … Ramesh Shah
Ashley Williams … Heather Burke
Susan Blackwell … Lauren Bratberg


Writer/Director: J.C. Chandor
Original Music: Nathan Larson
Cinematographer: Frank G. DeMarco
Editor: Pete Beaudreau

Rated R for language
105 minutes


“There are three ways to make a living in this business…be first, be smarter, or cheat.”

I was going to add the trailer but it gives away way too much.  So here’s the setup: loosely based on the Lehman Bros, MARGIN CALL focuses on a 24-hour period in which the decisions of a small group of people change thousands – hundreds of thousands – millions of lives.

MARGIN CALL begins with the shot above – you hear people typing, talking on the phone – the clouds pass by – day turns to night – and the BELL?? Sounds.  The screen cuts to black and MARGIN CALL appears in small white letters.  It all seems so innocent – but it’s not.  We hear a team of about 10 people walking before we see them.  Walking in single-file, and with purpose, you feel how the office tenses.  They’ve come to fire people – or laid people off if you will.  It’s all the same really…being fired vs being “laid off.”  Your life is pretty F-ed either way.  But whatever happened to those people who got fired, the event trigged something that changed this country…this world for the worse.


As two women are telling Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci) that as of the end of their meeting his phone will be turned off, his e-mail access will be terminated, and a security guard will escort him as he gathers his personal belongings – a booklet is set in front of him: “Life Ahead.”  It’s supposed to make him feel better, feel like he has some support but it would only make me feel worse.  But is “Life Ahead” really referring to Eric’s life or the chain reaction his termination caused.

Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) worked under Roger Dale in Risk Management.  As the elevator doors are about to close on Mr. Dale, he hands Peter a flash drive.  He informs Peter that he wasn’t given any time to finish – and most importantly – he said, “be careful.”  Eager to see what Mr. Dale was working on, he started working on it after everyone else left.  And well…you see his face above.

That is really all you need to know.  From there, important people are called…emergency meetings are held…decisions are made.

I want to comment on two major facets of MARGIN CALL:

The Cast/Characters:  Time and time again I talk about character development and the implications of having a huge cast.  How can there be character development?  Well, in MARGIN CALL you don’t really need to infuse any character development.  It occurs naturally over a course of 24-hours.  Sure there are a lot of characters but you see a change in most of them.  They are not the same person they were before that flash drive was handed over to Peter – who was once a rocket scientist.  Just look at the cast listed above….there are a lot of excellent actors in it.

The Script: Wow.  What is there to really say.  The script is fantastic.  Sure, hind-sight is always 20/20 and a script is what you make it into but this is serious stuff.  I have so many favorite quotes.  So here are a few:


“Look at these people.  Wandering around, with absolutely no idea what’s about to happen.”

“And at the end of the day one guy win and the other guy loses.”

“You’ll learn and spend what’s in your pocket.”

“If you’re the first one out the door; That’s not called panicking.”

“There has always been, and always will be the same percentage of winners and losers happy fucks and sad sacks.  Fat cats and starving dogs, in this world.”


Oh and how can you not love this shot:


Overall Recommendation: Everyone must watch this movie.  Don’t read about it.  If you feel like you are lost in the beginning that is a good thing.  In due time, everything will become clear – but come with your thinking caps on.



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One Response to Margin Call – 2011
  1. bibliophile
    December 29, 2011 | 9:55 pm

    I agree this film is great, but weren’t there any things you felt deserved to be criticized?

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