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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Margin Call’ flashes fiscal firepower on financial crisis


    Insightful and bracingly tense, “Margin Call” is a rare tonic of intellect and entertainment that manages to be compelling in the face of some very complex subject matter.

    Clearly having done his homework, whatever that may have entailed, writer and director J.C. Chandor exhibits a cool sense of control over a whirlwind plot, delivering a film about the 2008 financial crisis that, in the hands of a lesser writer, might have been far less intense.

    Making full use of a magnificent cast, Chandor’s film chronicles a Wall Street investment firm’s race for self-preservation in the fragile hours before its collapse, raising questions of responsibility that stretch outside the walls of the boardroom and into the sphere of critical economics.  

    The movie opens on Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci), a 19-year employee of the investment firm who, after being unjustly fired, leaves behind a flash drive containing a statistical prophesy of the company’s impending doom. When young analyst Peter (Zachary Quinto) becomes aware of the drive’s contents, he alerts the powers that be, setting off a chain of backroom negotiations that ultimately lead the players involved to answer a painfully difficult question: Which is more important, morality or survival?

    It’s tough to decide whether the success of “Margin Call” is more a product of its actors or its script, a dilemma that can only evidence the high caliber of both.  

    As a writer, Chandor caters to experts and novices alike, illustrating notoriously thorny concepts in a way that allows one to understand the predicament without needing to know all of its particulars.  

    The cast — from Paul Bettany’s high-strung senior trader, to Kevin Spacey’s upstanding head of sales, to Jeremy Irons’ morally detestable CEO — is stellar in every direction, proving that nothing can reveal a person’s character better than how he or she behaves in a crisis.

    Though the film falters in its final reel (manifested in a curious “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King”-esque refusal to stop packing scenes onto the end), “Margin Call” is for the most part an exhilarating, edge-of-the-seat experience.  

    As the economic state of the country would imply, a story of this nature couldn’t be more relevant, making it one of the finer and more important films of 2011.

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