Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Thrill Isn't Gone (Movie Thoughts: Margin Call)

Can you have a thriller without guns, car chases and explosions? Well, apparently you can. "Margin Call" is a big roller-coaster ride, one that kept me at the edge of my set with each story turn. The movie was inspired by the 2008 demise of Lehman Brothers, one of the most prestigious investment banks on the street. The movie happens in a span of 24 hours, and is framed by downsizings. At the beginning as the financial downturn affects the company, and at the end after the company is eviscerated by the risks it took in the market. Both events rests on the shoulders through an astonishingly layered performance by Kevin Spacey, who in my opinion gives his best performance since "The Usual Suspects." He is the almost-moral heart of the movie.  I worked in Invest Banking for more than twenty years, and each of the characters her ring true that at times I felt like I personally knew these characters. Wall Street is, as an industry, tantalizing. It lures you, but it has such vicious highs and lows that you have to have a steel stomach to survive. Maybe that's why I have such mixed reactions to the Occupy Wall Street Movement. I am still mentally in the industry to be offended by it, but believe you me, I know where they are coming from. A lot of the financial intricacies are explained in this movie, and while it still may be confusing, you will no doubt see these people as human beings, mainly because of the terrific ensemble casting. I can't think of a weak link - Jeremy Irons is commanding as the CEO, Simon Baker and Paul Bettany as spineless middle managers, and even Demi Moore is terrific. Zachary Quinto, as the catalyst who unravels the whole thing, is quietly effective, and even Penn Badgely, in a thankless but showy role, convinced me for the first time that he is a grown up. Mostly shot indoors, I know some people say the movie is a bit claustrophobic, but I think that just helps the insular mood. I wonder if the movie will play in Peoria, as they say, but I hope it gets an audience. 

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