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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