MARGIN CALL :: Oscar Ritual 2012
To be honest, I’d never even heard of Margin Call until the Oscar nominations were announced, and over the following month I kept forgetting entirely what the movie was about. Every time I saw the title I could not recall the premise of the movie at all. Then I would see a trailer and remember the phenomenal cast and the interesting story, and I would remember that, yes, I did think this film might be good. Right up until the week I decided to finally rent Margin Call I honestly could not remember what it was about. And that’s just odd!
The story centers around a high-powered investment banking firm that discovers a total financial collapse has begun and spends one frantic night attempting to make adjustments to minimize the impact. The setting is familiar – those first moments of the 2007 recession crisis – and the way that the senior executives decide to handle the crisis is despicable and shocking. And yet I expected nothing less, knowing what history has already shown about the impact of the crisis and how the industry leaders found a way to protect themselves from the chaos that ensued. I appreciate that Margin Call pulls no punches with the way the events play out and how the top players cut their losses to make sure that select individuals come out on top. What was surprising is how little loyalty existed among the firm’s ranks, and that is what makes this film engaging.
Kevin Spacey is at the nucleus of the story as a top manager who seeks to minimize the damage to the firm’s clientele, but the entire cast really shines. Simon Baker plays a senior executive with hatchet power, and Zachary Quinto portrays the young analyst who first recognizes the collapse. Paul Bettany is a supervisor to Quinto who helps him take the news up the ranks, and Demi Moore turns up as a risk assessment officer who originally failed to see the crisis when the warning signs first appeared. And then Jeremy Irons saunters onto the scene as the head of the firm who appears only to make the final determination, a decision that is just as devastating as the crisis itself. Each scene with each actor is powerful, and the story is taut in its telling. However, despite such talent and tale, I couldn’t help being distracted throughout the film. Again and again, from beginning to end, I felt assaulted by pervasive profanity, and I kept wondering just why so many Hollywood movies seem to fill every intense story with a steady stream of expletives. It’s as if writers don’t trust the actors to be able to convey strong emotion without uttering vulgarities at every turn! Just as I found in The Ides of March, so much profanity only became tedious and aggravating, and eventually I just got tired of the movie as a whole because of the onslaught of offensive language. Despite Margin Call‘s strong story, all I could think at the conclusion was how happy I was that my ears and my mind could finally have some relief. Unfortunately, that’s probably not what the filmmakers intended.
movie still via IMDB