Monday, August 13, 2012

"Margin Call" (2011) - Movie Review

There is death in the air throughout “Margin Call”. Nobody dies but there is death in the air. Nobody sheds a blood but there is absolute death in the air. This is the film that squeezes the desperation of the well dressed and the highly mannered individuals to a night that is equivalent to the despair what Martin Scorsese brought in “Taxi Driver” and “Bringing out the dead”. Writer/Director J. C. Chandor cuts a slice of the chunk that brought down the economy to its knees, beat it down the head till it bled through the skulls and seep through the canals of drained out future of several lives.

After seeing “Margin Call”, I went ahead to know more about the MBS (Mortage Backed Security) and tried to read more into the crash that caused the end of 2008 to be the worst financial crisis since The Great Depression. My idea of the fiasco is that the bank and other big firms provided mortgage to people who cannot afford their homes and as the obvious happened, the ripple effect caused the market to crash and burn. That is the simplistic explanation I could give and when you begin reading any article in the Wiki, there is “complicated” on the first line it begins to explain. I honestly cannot quantify the details of that crash but there is a smart kid Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) who finds this debacle late at night in this unnamed firm in “Margin Call”. He tries explaining that to several executive heads that have long forgotten the numerics and science that has got them where they are. All we know is that the end has already happened and the burial needs to be performed.

The film begins with the firing of Peter Sullivan’s boss Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci), the head of the risk management for that floor. Before he leaves he drops an assignment to Peter and tells him to watch out. The kid completes the work and the bells ring loud to assemble everyone who has missed this. From there on, there are performances that is nothing short of perfection. Every single character in this film is needed, essential and provides something I have not seen in a film for a while. A quintessential purpose of existence in a film. “Margin Call” is bold in dealing this material with a reality that evokes a strange kind of response in its audience. Here are the people who have earned millions in a year and are faced with the worst situation they were earning those money for. Their reaction is quick, merciless and follows the crude sense of Darwin’s survival. 

Kevin Spacey plays Sam Rogers, who has the most sense of righteousness in this ugliness. Yet you will learn how he has been defeated long before this to be the person his boss and friend John Tudd (Jeremy Irons) has become. There is Paul Bettany as Will Emerson, the golden boy for Sam Rogers who gives a quick spending summary of his 2 million dollars he earned in the past year. Jared Cohen (Simon Baker) is the division head that has risen to that level of authority and sneaky charm that absorbs this situation like he should and acts like he should. The junior most risk analyst in this whole game is Seth Bergman (Penn Badgley), a kid who acts realistic and pragmatic only to face the reality in closed corners. And finally there is Demi Moore as Sarah Robertson that played a primary role in firing Eric Dale, only to fight her survival with Jared and lick her wounds while doing it. These are performances they can be proud of. I have not seen such a precise and thorough performances in every scene of the film since Tony Gilroy’s “Michael Clayton”.

“Margin Call” chronicles one firm’s spectacular realization of the screw up they ignored and act with extreme force overnight to save the billions the head people have already earned. The cinematography of Frank DeMarco captures New York with a sickening glamour. It is depressing even when its glowing as the night dims through this tragedy that is being brought upon the nation. But the main mood that gets painted is by the background score of Nathan Larson. He meditates the sombre of this film that has the strength to appreciate the saddening plays that gets executed.

This is brilliant film making. It is tragically seem to be very accurate. It is bluntly truthful in its depiction of these people that have nothing but saving themselves and looking good while doing it. There are no moralities nor does wisdom. All is being said is the mistakes and blunders that has led them to this. Every one knows that they deserve all this and they seem to acknowledge what has happened yet no one is apologetic. That is the scary situation of this global economical operation is that it is all numbers on thin air that gets dispersed, evaporated and created at will. There are no violent battle in this tragedy other than the very basis of the survival crumble under the people who depend on it, the rest of the people that try to live a moderate income and below that. That mood is what makes “Margin Call” deeply disturbing and terrifyingly honest.

Making a film about an event that happened couple of years ago is a huge risk as it is fresh in one’s memory. Yet J. C. Chandor goes for it because he saw the doom and gloom for a drama and thriller unlike no other. It ensembles a cast that somehow understood the element of the fiasco on a different level. No one overplays or underplays their character. Every body is smug but carefully play it with a care. Here are people who deserve no sympathy but we begin to have some especially towards Sam Rogers. Every one is so damn good with numbers. There is a breathtaking scene with Stanley Tucci’s Eric Dale summarizing the great work he once did. There is another scene where Jared Cohen and Sarah Robertson discuss their survival in an elevator with a janitor lady in between that is so merciless and effective. And then there is Sam Rogers and Peter Sullivan discussing the morning of the worst day in the firm’s history that carries an unique kind of an unimaginable axis of emotion. All these scenes are few that are superior than the over all superiority of the film itself. It is always a thrill and exuberance to see a film that achieves a level of perfection I have not seen in recent times. “Margin Call” is one of the best films of 2011.

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