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Margin Call - Film Review

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by Haydn Radford (subscribe)
Haydn Radford -A freelance writer born in Adelaide, who loves living here. I write about movies, theatre, entertainment, literary and art events. I am happy to promote & review your events.
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Margin Call - Chilling thriller, stellar cast, magnificent performances.

Wall Street gave us that memorable line 'Greed is good'. Margin Call has several memorable lines of its own, one of them being, 'You know, I can't read these things,' says CEO John Tuld (Jeremy Irons) referring to a financial report on his investment firm. In response, a very bright young former rocket scientist, now a low-level risk analyst, Peter Sullivan, (Zachary Quinto) explains in simple terms to his CEO how this large investment bank on Wall Street is on the brink of collapsing big time. A ruthless cold hearted Jared Cohen (Simon Baker) has a solution; it is a fire sale, requiring the selling of worthless packages of mortgages to their customers and trading partners, something they know has no value, and will consign the buyers to the scrapheap while the bank gets richer.

Does this story sound familiar? Tuld's surname is very similar to Richard Fuld, the infamous CEO of Lehman Brothers, the 4th largest investment bank in the USA, which in 2008 achieved the largest bankruptcy in US history. Fuld was one the main targets of Charles Ferguson's intelligent and revealing Oscar-winning documentary about the Global Financial Crisis, Inside Job.

Margin Call also compares favourably with Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet's 1992 film, which was adapted from his acclaimed 1984 Pulitzer Prize and Tony winning play of the same name. Mamet's imposingly bleak play is about illegal and unethical selling of undesirable real estate in Chicago to unknowing prospective buyers. There is little to distinguish between the deceptive Wall Street sales operators in Margin Call and the con men in Glengarry Glen Ross.

Anyone who followed the 2008 global financial crisis will recognise the scenario of this film from debut writer-director J C Chandor who has based his award winning screenplay - AACTA Best Screenplay International Award and San Francisco film Film Critics Circle Awards. Also nominated for Best Original Screenplay at 84th Academy Awards and Best First Screenplay at the Independent Spirit Awards and Best First Film at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, plus other nominations and awards.

Margin Call
Kevin Spacey ' You are selling something you know has no value. We will be successful in destroying our own jobs. '

This first-rate thriller provides realistic insights into the financial corporate world and its decision making processes that ensures the bank survives and always comes first ahead of everyone and everything else, including its own personnel and customers. Many of us have either seen, heard or perhaps even experienced first hand the shoddy actions of banks in Australia towards their customers, whether it be high mortgage interest rates, spiralling customers' fees or loss of employment due to relocation of banking services and jobs.

I am sure this film will push buttons for some people and for that reason, it may not be the form of entertainment they would seek for their Saturday night at the movies. Others will find this thriller absorbing entertainment with a stellar cast - Demi Moore, Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Simon Baker, Paul Bettany, Penn Badgley, Stanley Tucci, Zachary Quinto and Mary McDonnell each provide magnificent performances that will hold your attention.

Keeping the complexities of the subject matter easy to follow is one of the saving graces of this movie, as many viewers could have been confused and lost interest had the story got muddied with the semantics and gobbledegook of the financial world. To help follow the events there are some wonderful lines and touches of humour to lighten the spine chilling complexities of the financial world in terms we can all understand. As viewers we see only some of the sales transactions taking place and are left to imagine and speculate the consequences of this investment bank's deceptive actions for ourselves. The expected anti-Hollywood open-ending for some will be the most unsettling and lingering aspect of all. It is bound to stimulate conversation over a coffee afterwards.

**** out of *****
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Why? An exciting thriller with great performances revealing why we had to have the global financial crisis.
Where: At selected cinemas - check screening details.
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