x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Margin Call does what Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps failed to do

Full of rich dialogue exchanges and top-notch performances, Margin Call has the same urgency and resonance as David Mamet's Glengarry Glenn Ross, his study of high-powered real-estate brokers.

Kevin Spacey in Margin Call.
Kevin Spacey in Margin Call.

Margin Call
Director: JC Chandor
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore, Paul Bettany, Stanley Tucci
****

We all expected Oliver Stone to deliver the last word when it came to the economic meltdown. In the end, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, the 2010 sequel to his 1987 study of Manhattan money grubbing, was a damp squib.

So it's something of a surprise that the "last word" has come from the little-known Chandor, a debut writer-director whose father worked for Merrill Lynch.

Deservedly winning him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, Margin Call is a smart, savvy drama set in an investment bank on the eve of the 2008 financial crash.

Quinto (who played Spock in the recent Star Trek reboot) is our eyes into this world; he's a young trader who begins the film by being handed a USB stick from sacked risk manager  Tucci. Like a ticking time bomb, it holds data that proves the boom is about to go bust, information that soon gets passed up to the powers-that-be – from Bettany's floor manager via Spacey's world-weary head of trading to Moore's no-nonsense executive and Irons's company head.

Decisions are made, brutal ones that will have drastic repercussions, all in the name of saving money (and not their souls). Full of rich dialogue exchanges and top-notch performances, Margin Call has the same urgency and resonance as David Mamet's Glengarry Glenn Ross, his study of high-powered real-estate brokers.

Set in empty offices overlooking New York, there's a great foreboding here as day turns to night. Of course, we all know what happened next. But Chandor brilliantly captures the moment before push comes to shove.