Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Margin Call

Movie Review: Margin Call

Director: J.C. Chandor

Reviewed: 14 March 2012

jamesintexas rating--*** (4 Stars = Highest Rating)

I don't understand Wall Street. I'm not sure this film helped me understand it any better (or meant to).

What I think Chandor's Margin Call captures well is the heady, rushy feeling of being up all night in a crisis of some kind. It also captures at least three times the way crisis situations can throw people of radically different lifestyles and philosophies into contact with each other. This film is well-made, well-constructed, and shot in an interesting way.

When Spock discovers a file left incomplete by the recently fired Mr. Julia Child and completes it, this means that the house of cards at his financial firm is about to fall down. Spock sends it up the flagpole, culminating in an all-nighter with boss Keyser Soze, G.I. Jane, John Nash's invisible roommate, the Mentalist, and Scar who shows up via helicopter. They swirl around the numbers and try to figure out how to best profit from the impending implosion.

The first moment shows G.I. Jane and the Mentalist sharing an elevator with a cleaning lady. They continue their conversation over her head, literally and figuratively, and it is significant that they do not say hello or acknowledge her presence. She cleans the office; they are masters of the universe. Their actions have a ripple effect into the lives of everyday Americans like her. She does not warrant a hello or a name. A small moment but telling, I think.

The second moment is when a distraught young trader breaks down in the bathroom about being fired and losing this opportunity. He cries to the Mentalist, "This is all I've ever wanted to do!" The Mentalist, quietly and methodically shaving in the sink, looks at him with incredulity: "Really?" A person who loves what he does vs. a person who cannot even comprehend a person loving that job. Another look at two different worlds. Nicely done.

The final moment is a closing image of Keyser Soze, now more like Lester Burnham than Turkish gangster, digging a hole for his beloved dog in the front lawn of his ex-wife's home. The closing conversation between Lester and Stands-With-A-Fist shows him as a distraught man, forced to bury something cherished, aware of his loss of his family, his humanity, his dog, maybe everything. He just tried to get out of the firm, but Scar demands his loyalty for the next 24 months. He is not his own man. The burying has begun, foreshadowing the burying of the American people under these underwater mortgages and mountains of debt.

As Lester might say, "It's all downhill from here."

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