DVD Review: Margin Call

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MSRP $19.98
RUNNING TIME 107 minutes
• Director and Producer Commentary
• Deleted Scenes with optional commentary
• Revolving Door:Making of Margin Call
• Missed Calls: Moments with the cast and crew
• From the Deck: Photo gallery

The Pitch

Set in the high-stakes world of Wall Street, Margin Call is an entangling thriller involving the key players at an investment firm during the earliest hours of the 2008 financial crisis. When an entry-level analyst unlocks information that could prove to be the downfall of the firm, a roller-coaster ride ensues as the firm’s employees must weigh whether to save their own company at the risk of fleecing millions of investors.

The Humans

Directed by J.C.Chandor Starring Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore and Stanley Tucci

The Nutshell

The best Wall Street movie, even better than Wall Street.

The City, as seen through the eyes of Abe Sapien


The Lowdown

Margin call is a fully developed, grossly overlooked character driven drama that tries to give a day in the life of a commodities trading company in the heart of NYC during the 24 hours of the financial crisis we are still currently involved in. The acting in this film comes from a diverse set of established and skilled actors of different ages and styles, but all of them doing some of the best work they may have ever done.

The screenplay for Margin call was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. Honestly, the first quarter of the film has the possibility of turning people away. The financial terms getting slung around are quite terse and almost make you feel lost unless you have worked in the industry. After digesting the film, it makes sense. We traverse this story from the lowest point of entry. We start with the daily burdens the normal workers go through, the brains and technical knowledge presented by employees who tend to such a fine grained set of tasks that the language is complex to meet their needs. As the story progresses and we get higher into the company, the upper management forces the underlings to spell it out for them and us at the same time. It was an intelligent way of progressing the story while making sure to explain what is going on.

If I offer your husband a million dollars…. actually one of the best introductions of a character

This is definitely more of a slow burning, patient tale of the decisions a company might have made if they were the ones to identify the upcoming housing market crisis. The story does not officially judge or say who is right in the long run. In the end, it does make you feel that whether these companies had your best interests in mind, the people that run them all make you feel dirty after spending time with them. They make you feel as if they sold their soul to be where they are, and your soul is at risk for just dealing with them.

I have never known Spacey to give a bad performance. A lot of his more current choices have been in movies that haven’t interested me, but seeing this reminded me of how good he can actually be. I’ve seen him showboat at times in other films, never really being able to separate him from Lester Burnham. He gives one of his most versatile performances of his career. He is strong and compassionate for his employees, weak but challenging to his boss and broken and remorseful to his family and dog. This is a far cry away from American Beauty.

I don’t know what’s on the computer, but if you let me drink some of that I’ll guess

In the commentary, director J.C. Chandor says that the person fans most related to was Paul Bettany’s character. To continue with the strong character foundation, Pauls’ character starts off as a little more than a loud mouthed manager/salesman, cocky and the ideal capitalist. By the end of Margin call, he is one of the people who holds things together, particularly with Quinto and Badgley. His character is smart, but modest enough to know when to call in the top brass when he doesn’t know what to do.

The last of what I would consider to be the main 3 actors is Zachary Quinto. I was one of those who enjoyed the first season of Heroes but then quickly removed it and most of it’s cast from being any interest to me. Quinto’s work in Star Trek,The Big Bang Theory and now Margin call mean I will be open to watch anything he is involved with. He wore a double hat in Margin call by not only acting, but also producing. His character in the film is exceptionally smart, very inexperienced and has far too much of a conscience to watch the events unfold the way they do.

The rest of the cast has Stanley Tucci playing an understated but disgruntled former employee that was loosely based off the director’s father and his experiences. Simon Baker and Demi Moore appear to be VPs who are normally above interacting with the grunts they are forced to communicate with due to the severity of the problem. Penn Badgley seems to the tail chasing equal of Quinto, but without any of his own momentum or rocket science. Jeremy Irons has almost as little screen time as Tucci, but plays an iron fisted capitalist dictator that rules the company with an Iron Fist. His dominance of each and every scene he is in reflects exactly what his character would have to be like to be in charge.

My wardrobe was half the budget of this film

The last thing to point out is the style of the film. There are quite of few unique shots that are used such as strong angles 3 or 4 feet over Simon Baker on top of a building roof, the driving shots with Spacey or just the different frames on the several of the closeups. The color scheme is just dull but vibrant where it needs to be to represent a never ending day. NYC is always playing the backdrop as well as it ever has, from every window we see in the building, the countless roof top scenes and the few times we leave 1 Penn Plaza. This was Chandor’s first feature as a director. He is definitely someone to watch going forward, and I will be very interested to see if he can be as effective outside the financial market.

On the first viewing, I thought the film had above average acting, but the story was too complex for the general public. On a second viewing, I gained a much higher respect for it. The pacing was done to build tension at the end, but getting through the start may be difficult to those without previous knowledge. There aren’t many ensemble based character driven films that are better. The topic is something that might not have been able to keep me interested, without the strong performances, the great visuals and attention to detail that make Margin Call one of the top films of 2011.

Screw finances, let’s make a movie about alcohol. Maybe we can get Tom Cruise to be a bartender.

The Package

The DVD has the normal commentary, with just the director and the producer, so only for commentary enthusiasts. There are 2 deleted scenes that don’t add anything back to the film. One has Quinto showing a bit more of his conscience, but the scene takes way to long to unfold, hence why it was cut. The Making of Margin Call is more of just the director and producer, but it also has an interview with the director’s dad, who was the basis for the Stanley Tucci character. Add in Cast and Crew, along with a photo gallery and you have a well rounded package to complement a well rounded film.


Out of a Possible 5 Stars

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