Margin Call (2011): Closer to Wall Street

Margin Call (2011). Before The Door Pictures.

Margin Call (2011). Before The Door Pictures.

At last, a Wall Street film which dispenses of my despised clichés of Wall Street films. J.C. Chandor’s first full-length feature film has no testosterone-fueled males screaming at each other across the boardroom, no gratuitous flashes of 45mm chronographs from under perfectly tailored shirts, and, more important, no hackneyed dialogue about power and greed.

Having experienced this milieu first hand, it seems the stage of Margin Call is a great deal closer to the Wall Street I know: there is a certain insular quality about the whole enterprise which shields its players from the terrible consequences on real life and regular people which their actions bring. Margin Call captures that insularity: the tall glassy building which puts the real world at arm’s length; the privilege of bespoke (the head honcho eats a late steak lunch in an empty employee cafeteria after the day’s plunder); and, the way in which groups shift, close ranks, shift and close again to protect against the storm of unpleasant consequence. It also captures the ethical boundaries which everyone, from the analysts to the highest executive, daily crosses and re-crosses. The film’s able cast also captures that cat-and-mouse feeling within the higher echelons of finance; everyday is a different day to demonstrate loyalty to the firm while secretly protecting yourself for the time when it all goes down. Again, this is not done through clichés, but through real moments of candor and visual metaphor. In keeping these moments true, the film captures the terrifying beginnings of the recession and the actions, great and small, which led to it.

Margin Call, dir. J.C. Chandor, 107 min. Before The Door Pictures, et al., 2011.

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