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78 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tightly focussed and compelling
I saw this corporate drama last month in New York, just after attending a conference about managing financial risk (which, coincidentally, is one of the film's themes). The head of risk at the bank in this story is played by Demi Moore, who acquits herself well in a very strong ensemble alongside Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, and others. Based on the...
Published on 16 Dec. 2011 by Jeremy Walton

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling financial drama - but lacking sustance
Margin Call is the story of an unnamed bank that has taken a pretty serious unintentional gamble on mortgage-back securities (MBS's). When Junior Analyst Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto - Star Trek XI) inherits a file from the recently-sacked risk controller, he realises that the valuation of the firm's books is wrong and that they are approaching crunch-time. He takes...
Published on 19 Dec. 2011 by J. Morris


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78 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tightly focussed and compelling, 16 Dec. 2011
By 
Jeremy Walton (Sidmouth, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Margin Call [US Import] [Blu-ray] [2011] [Region A] (Blu-ray)
I saw this corporate drama last month in New York, just after attending a conference about managing financial risk (which, coincidentally, is one of the film's themes). The head of risk at the bank in this story is played by Demi Moore, who acquits herself well in a very strong ensemble alongside Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, and others. Based on the events at the start of the financial meltdown of 2008, the film isn't so much about the technical details about what it meant for a bank's assets to be suddenly realised to be worthless, but wisely concentrates instead on the human drama as the characters react to the disaster, and try and deal with it.

Beginning with Zachary Quinto's careful, respectful junior analyst who uncovers the problem, the viewer is drawn into an escalating series of encounters with his superiors, which culminates in a board meeting helmed by the bank's authoritative, adept CEO played by Jeremy Irons. This is a brilliantly nuanced portrayal by Irons: just watch the way he tries to calm the analyst's nerves with a self-deprecating remark whilst he testily flicks at the corner of his damning report. He's also compellingly watchable in his meetings with the experienced, exhausted trading manager (another compelling performance by Kevin Spacey), and in a short encounter with Demi Moore, whom he effectively crushes in spite of her brave attempts at resistance.

Filmed on a limited budget over a few weeks (mostly in an office in a midtown Manhattan high-rise which had recently been vacated by a trading firm), the camera is closely focussed on the actors and what they have to say. Since they're so skilled, and the story is so compelling (even though we think we already know what's going to happen), the result is a richly satisfying viewing experience.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 1/2 stars -- very well acted and thoroughly engaging, 6 Nov. 2014
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This review is from: Margin Call [DVD] (DVD)
No sex, no car chases, no bloodshed, lots of talking -- and yet this movie succeeds in gripping the viewer. Its genius, I think, lies in showing us something that is quite familiar -- the anxiety that goes with losing one's job without having done anything to merit being fired -- and putting that familiar anxiety (or fear) in a context that most of us have no direct experience of: the world of high finance, hedge funds, collateralized debt obligations, etc. etc. We like seeing people who are that high on the economic totem pole sweat, and yet because they are not all bad people, the movie enables us to see them as fellow human beings too -- in a tight spot of a kind that many of us can imagine ourselves being in, and not just at the mercy of "the economy" but as suffering the consequences of decisions made much higher up the chain of command than we can ever aspire to. These decisions put the people in the movie in danger -- and yet we know too that when things were going well, these same people were all too happy to benefit from the short-term profitable results of these same decisions. So our attitude towards them is sympathetic, but complicated, in a way that keeps us gripped.

The world of high finance engenders its particular moral dilemmas, and they too are engaging. The firm in question, an investment bank, needs to unload a lot of questionable financial instruments (think of collateralized bad mortgage debt) that threaten in short order to undermine the total capitalization of the firm. The ethical question is -- can and should the firm sell these off to clients who don't yet know that the firm's own projections show that the instruments will be worthless in a very short time? AND if it starts to sell off huge tranches of them, how long ( matter of hours) will it take for the markets, and hence the clients, to cotton to the shakiness of the firm, drive the prices down, and leave the firm, as they say, "exposed" -- and with its reputation for fair dealing in tatters?

These are the issues. Thanks to a great cast, they're absorbingly presented. Stanley Tucci (who is getting fired right at the opening), Kevin Spacey, and Demi Moore are in different positions and at different ranks in the firm, and they want to do "the right thing" (or find a way to convince themselves that they can keep their integrity without ruining the firm). Simon Baker is higher up the food chain, and Jeremy Irons is at the top -- and it's a bit harder to sympathize with them (I'm avoiding spoilers). Good work too from Paul Bettany and Zachary Quinto. J. C Chandor has written a smart, knowing script, and he directs with unflashy efficiency (his dad was fired from Merrill Lynch, we learn in one of the special features). But the acting's the thing -- these guys bring it to life, creating distinct characters and keeping us engaged. Well worth a look.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic - the most accurate depiction of the Street you will ever see, 28 Mar. 2013
This review is from: Margin Call [DVD] (DVD)
I have experience in this industry and this is the most accurate depiction of the people that are involved in it that you will ever see. The movie is an intense, gripping, slow-burn tale of the moral grey areas of the financial world.

This movie does not present stupid charactures of egotisitcal Wall Street sharks always out to kill their competitors.
It shows the dilemma that all sales people and traders face - whatever industry they work in - that people you deal with in the market are often both your friends and the people that you profit from. If you find yourself with a warehouse full of bad stock do you sell to people that you have dealt with for years or do you go bust?

It presents a picture of people in the industry who are fundamentally as honest and decent as the next man, but are faced with tough choices in a competitive industry that has a steep curve of big financial rewards and brutal dismissal.

The cast is magnificient. It goes without saying that Kevin Spacey is superb. Paul Bettany is spot on as the likeable but brutally direct and honest senior trader (this performance almost makes up for Ganster No 1). Jeremy Irons is fantasic as the charming and ruthless CEO. Demi Moore, Zachary Quinto and Stanley Tucci are excellent too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'SURVIVAL AT ALL COSTS', 1 Mar. 2014
By 
rbmusicman (U.K) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Margin Call [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Must admit I missed this film when released on Blu-ray/DVD, I usually pick-up
on 'Kevin Spacey' movies.
(Saw a trailer when watching a movie a couple of days back)
The film is set in the 'dog eat dog' world of business dealings (stocks and shares)
on 'Wall Street' where money can be gained or lost with a blink of an eye.
During the early stages of the 2008 financial crisis, an operative unlocks information
that could finish the firm.
After an all night consultation when the seriousness of the situation is realized, a
frantic race to advert financial melt-down is triggered.
The team have to hold their nerve, having a conscience won't help.
A terrific cast list including 'Kevin Spacey' 'Paul Bettany' 'Jeremy Irons' 'Demi Moore'
and (Mr Spock) 'Zachary Quinto' are on board.
This movie is a 'spell-binding' 'Tense' and 'absorbing' finance driven drama....well
worth a spin
Special Features:--
* Audio Commentary: with director 'J.C.Chandor' and 'Ned Dudson'
* Deleted Scenes with optional commentary.
* Revolving Door: The making of 'Margin Call'
* Missed Calls: Moments with cast and crew.
* From the Deck: Photo Gallery.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Corporations are amoral, 18 May 2014
By 
Susman "Sussman" (London Mills IL) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Margin Call [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Other reviews have described the film fairly well; I wanted to comment on the themes.
For me the narrative of the movie is about how its principal players are concerned only by the prosperity of their corporation (played out very well with a sterling cast of actors). There is no sense, or effort shown for the public good. In essence, the message here is that Corporations are amoral, and their existence owes its need to survive and succeed, at any cost. As the cast, play out their respective roles there is reflection, they reflect on the enormity of what is happening: For their company and their lives are being rendered meaningless. While the movie does not depict any one single financial event, or any one financial institution, however, there are `threads' that link this `fictional' account into the real world. This can be exemplified by the 2008 financial crisis: Goldman Sachs and the organisation's efforts to move early to reduce its position in mortgage-backed securities.

A film with no CGI, car chases or amazing fighting sequences. However, it has tension - the frailties of loyalties betrayed. A film that is really worth seeing.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really took me by surprise, awesome movie!, 1 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Margin Call [DVD] (DVD)
I must say for some reason I wasn't expecting too much from Margin Call despite the awesome cast. I guess I'm angry with the banks and financial companies for what they did and didn't think I'd enjoy watching what went wrong in 2007/8. But I was wrong, the movie blew me away much more than any I can think of for ages. It seems to be very much based on the Lehman Brothers fall but it's not explicitly mentioned to be so. The film reminded me very much of what I liked about The Firm, the original Wall Street and has the general feel of the similar feeling (and also excellent) Michael Clayton. The film gets straight into the action as people are getting fired and builds quickly into the looming threat of the crisis. The direction is very subtle so you really believe what you are seeing and the awesome array of acting talent mean you are really rooting for many of the characters despite what they do for a living. The script and dialogue are both excellent with a Glengarry Glenross feel to a lot of the exchanges. There is one moment that sums up how subtle it is for me. Demi Moore's character is being given some bad news and without even blinking or moving her eyes the slightest bit you can see something die inside her, it's really quite amazing big screen acting and there is not one false note here to be found. If you enjoy very well acted thrillers then give Margin Call a try ASAP, it will also teach a bit more about how these idiots wrecked our economy! Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Long and Wrong, 22 Feb. 2015
By 
Charles Vasey (London, England) - See all my reviews
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Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Margin Call [DVD] (DVD)
Something is amiss in the risk profile of a New York brokerage which is in the midst of "trimming back". As the young analysts (one of them played by Mr Spock) realise the full horror they move up with the news past layer after layer of management, each more dog-eat-dog than the other. It reminded me of working in a Big Four accounting firm; only you know the issue at hand in detail, the others are playing catch-up, not with the issue, but the liability, yet trying to seem in control. There's some vicious fun to be had here. As the escape plan is developed and executed flocks of chickens come home to roost. The cast really is good, and the sharp distinction of being in (or out) is clearly made. You do need to understand a little about markets but not much.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Men in smart, dark suits act nervously as a procession of ..., 20 May 2015
This review is from: Margin Call [DVD] (DVD)
Men in smart, dark suits act nervously as a procession of women enter the office. Redundancy is in hand, and we observe a clinical dispatch of ‘bad news’ packages handed out by the women to selected employees. The human stain of culling has started, and things are going to ‘get ugly.’ But there is a greater threat lurking in the background, and the secret of this will begin to unfold - from the office trading floor to the top man in the boardroom. The message is clear –the stock market is about to crash. Traders get twitchy, and the cosy charm of personal wealth is lost in an exchange of crisp dialogue. We are about to learn a lesson in the language of profit and loss: The traders have overstretched themselves, and the promise of high returns won’t be fed back to stimulate the market: The public has gone broke. .......Behind the seemly world of polite manners, smart suits and cocktails, lies a seething energy of ruthlessness: The film is set in the world of trading, and a great story that enhances itself to the screen. The film engages energy and invites the viewer to observe a private and exclusive world. But it is like an artificial world born out of science fiction, which will soon crack open to reality: The traders are reminded that they are only one step away from becoming broke themselves ......The film has a subtle way to soft pedal emotions and politeness in a controlled manner – it is like a mafia shake-up without the blood. .......There are lovely touches to the film – the music score ( Nathan Larson ) – and a snippet of a Chopin prelude ( no.15 in D flat major ) that is cut short in play as we are about to indulge – a trader recalled to office from a plush bar, still drinking from a lengthy bottle hidden in a brown, paper bag – I loved the ending: masterfully and touchingly real - - - the directors first venture into feature film –remarkable, and well done J.C.Chandor! The acting is also rewarding on all levels, especially with the star graded choice of actors - and more. ....The story loosely reminds me of ‘ The Machine Stops’ ( by E.M. Forster ), ‘We’ ( by Yevgeny Zamyatin), and the film, ‘The Swimmer’ ( starring Burt Lancaster ). Treat the film with a sense of black humour as it teases us to do so in return – and don’t sell your soul..... I highly recommend to view – the film’s ending has the hallmarks of Eli Kazan: where you think it should be the beginning rather than the ending?
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3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling financial drama - but lacking sustance, 19 Dec. 2011
By 
J. Morris "Josh" (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Margin Call [US Import] [Blu-ray] [2011] [Region A] (Blu-ray)
Margin Call is the story of an unnamed bank that has taken a pretty serious unintentional gamble on mortgage-back securities (MBS's). When Junior Analyst Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto - Star Trek XI) inherits a file from the recently-sacked risk controller, he realises that the valuation of the firm's books is wrong and that they are approaching crunch-time. He takes this to his boss Will Emerson (Paul Bettany - Priest) who in turn takes it to his boss Rogers (Kevin Spacey - Horrible Bosses) who has a temper tantrum about why this wasn't picked up sooner by risk, headed up by the gorgeous Sarah Robertson (Demi Moore). After all the finger pointing has died down, a fairly serious decision remains as what to do with the debt-ridden positions - either shop it out to the marketplace and cause wider financial turmoil, or accept the consequences of your own actions. Will they make the right decision?

This is a well filmed affair set in upper-Manhattan that was filmed (ironically) in a trading room recently vacated by a bankrupt firm. It's based on the issues that caused the credit-crisis in 2008 (risky debt packaged up in a way to make it appear triple-A-rating worthy) but at no point do we actually get any traction of what the problem actually is. It reeks of a script-writer who has no real idea of what the larger-problem in the markets is as Quinto & Bettany endlessly "umm" & "ahh" over a computer screen that is never shown to the camera. It's infinitely referred to as "the model" or "the equation" (I assume they are alluding to the Gaussian Copula formula) but it's clear we are never going to really understand what has gone wrong here; instead we are left with a moral-lecture from Hollywood; Money = Bad, People who deal with money = Amoral.

Extras: include deleted scenes with optional commentary by writer/director JC Chandor and producer Neal Dodson, a "Revolving Door: Making Margin Call" featurette, a "Missed Calls: Moments with Cast & Crew" featurette, and a photo gallery.

The cast are capable, the direction is impeccable for first-timer J.C. Chandor and I've heard rumours that people are enjoying this more than Wall Street 2 but in my opinion, it's two years too late to the party and makes no sense. I mean the title of the film is ridiculous - for example; it's like calling a film about telephone-networks "Phone Bill" - it's just mundane and only sounds cool to people who have no idea what it actually refers to. A good film that vocalises the moral struggle of finance well but based on complicated issues that are misconstrued by the writer. Enjoyable, but not mind-blowing in any respect.
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4.0 out of 5 stars film making for the kickstarter generation, 10 Sept. 2014
By 
tallmanbaby (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Margin Call [DVD] (DVD)
This is film making for the kickstarter generation, smart, intelligent with lots of confident swagger. It follows on the American tradition of Death of a Salesman, and Glengarry Glen Ross, with a moral quandary flung at some company men. It is a variation of what must have happened at big financial companies like Lehman Brothers, as the recent financial crisis started to unravel, do you dump your stock on your neighbour, or tough it out to avoid creating a bigger crisis.

Although this is stylishly shot, with a top notch cast, there is relatively little eye candy, so it will not appeal to the popcorn crowd. It is however thoughtful, consistently engaging and well informed. You do get the feeling that this is what it would be like at one of these institutions. The technical detail does not entirely stack up, why would an analyst be hanging around the trading room, and how would selling stock at a knock down price help your capital adequacy ratio, but these are forgivable niggles.

There are a couple of compromises, the characters are all portrayed fairly sympathetically, for shallow overpaid traders, and having Kevin Spacey with his sick dog as a moral centre felt a bit contrived. However for those interested in the financial crisis, this is well worth a watch.
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