Margin Call (Blu-ray)
MARGIN CALL is the movie that WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS wanted to be. It’s a smart, sophisticated and intense look at the business world and the people that make decisions. Although centered on the events within one financial firm that lead up to the economic collapse a few years ago, the people and situations in the film are relate-able to just about anyone that has ever had a real job. And as the characters in the film are faced with a serious moral dilemma, we as the audience are faced with the same dilemma because we feel like we’re right there with them. And when we put our bias and prejudices aside, we realize that making the right choice isn’t always easy or as clear as we first thought.
The film begins with very much a vibe similar to THE COMPANY MEN, where HR personnel walk into an office area and start laying people off. But that’s simply the catalyst to set the events in motion, which culminate in Eric (Stanley Tucci) tossing Peter (Zachary Quinto) a flash drive that has some data on it. When Peter digs into it and finishes the problem, he discovers that the company could end up losing everything very quickly if action isn’t taken. He takes this up to his bosses, and soon everyone is faced with the moral dilemma of either coming clean about what’s about to happen or beating the news and selling off everything. I won’t lie to you; this can be tough to follow, especially if you try to get into the weeds as to what the catalyst was to set the events in motion. The idea of a firm overleveraging its assets and using formulas to calculate risk will be lost on some people, which is fine. Chandor knows this, which is why the basic idea is that if “a” and “b” happen, then the company will lose everything; everyone can understand that on some level.
When Peter and Seth (Penn Badgley) are in the car, they start discussing how much they think they’re boss makes. This discussion comes as tensions are rising and the intensity is building, but it’s a wonderful exchange and it serves well to bring the audience back down to earth. It also affords the filmmakers a chance to take a swipe at how out of whack corporate salaries are for executives. There’s another part where Peter and Seth are about to go into a meeting with the CEO of the firm and before they enter, their boss’s boss, Jared (Simon Baker) warns them that they’re not smart enough to lie. It reminded me of something one of my boss’s told me, which was “never miss a chance to not say something”. These examples are just a few instances of how good of a job J.C. Chandor did in bringing this extremely complicated story down to earth and telling it on a level that everyone can enjoy.
Special attention has to be given for some of the great performances in this film, most notably, Jeremy Irons as the CEO. It’s easy to paint him as the villain, but as the film progresses, everyone that initially hated him starts to understand his opinion. This is helped by strong performances from Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore and Simon Baker; all of which had tough roles that required a delicate balance of vulnerability and toughness. If there’s a complaint to be had on the film, I missed having at least one character I could have an emotional attachment to. Everyone has their “business” face on, which means we don’t learn much about any of them. I also would have liked to see Peter struggle with the situation more. He seemed okay with everything and I would have thought he would be a little more stressed given what was going on.
In my opinion, MARGIN CALL is the best business-centric movie to come out since GLENGARY GLEN ROSS. It’s an intelligent and relate-able film that puts the audience in the room with the men making the decisions and makes you glad to be there.
Video: This is a nice, clean transfer that’s very smooth.
Audio: This is a dialogue-heavy film, but it comes through crystal clear.
Commentary with J.C. Chandor and Neal Dodson: This commentary is very specific to the making of the film and not so much on the events that inspired the film. In fact, nothing on this disc touches on the true events, which is a little disappointing with a film like this.
Deleted Scenes (4:33): Nothing great here, but according to the commentary, one of the scenes features Meryl Streep’s youngest daughter.
Revolving Door: Making Margin Call (5:54): This is your standard fluff piece about the making of the film.
Missed Calls: Momnts with Cast and Crew (1:02): Apparently, making a movie about the economic collapse of America isn’t funny, because this is only a collection of line-flubs.