Margin Call is a smart and suspenseful film that turns the complicated and convoluted financial meltdown of recent years into not only an explanation that us mere humans, who aren’t Wall Street sharks, can understand, but a very human drama.
Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto), an entry-level analyst for a big firm on Wall Street, discovers that his firm has over invested in unreliable assets, and is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. What follows is really a thriller, as the financial advisers and executives of the firm must wrestle with the ethics of whether or not they sell their unreliable assets and destroy the market, to save themselves. Given that we’ve lived through the financial crisis, I think you can guess what happens.
Zachary Quinto turns in a believable performance as a naïve guy who just happens to work on Wall Street – and that takes some acting skills, as I don’t believe for a second that anyone there, even the street vendors selling hotdogs, could be that unassuming. The rest of the cast, however, is also exceptional. Stanley Tucci, Paul Bettany, Kevin Spacey, Simon Baker, Jeremy Irons – even Penn Badgley from Gossip Girl – are an interesting blend of ‘good person’ and ‘product of their pretty corrupt environment.’
It’s a film that is as much a meltdown of morals and humanity, as finances.