Margin Call, Blu-ray (2011)
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci
Director: J.C. Chandor
Studio: Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate [12/20/11]
Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish
Extras: Commentary tracks by director and producer, “Revolving Door”, Making Margin Call, “Missed Calls”, Moments with cast and crew, “From the Deck”, Photo gallery, Deleted scenes with optional commentary
Length: 107 minutes
This is a seemingly realistic and very dramatic portrayal of the financial meltdown on Wall Street around the bogus mortgages. Rather than attempting to tell the whole financial sector story, it focuses on one fictitous financial corporation, and opens with one of its longtime risk management executives (played beautifully by Stanley Tucci) being coldly fired and as he leaves in the elevator, handing a flash drive to a young associate saying it was something he was in the middle of working on when the blow came and to “Be Careful.”
When an entry-level analyst looks at the information he finds it reveals that the company is so over-committed to obviously bad mortgage-backed securities that the potential loss is more than the entire value of the company. This is the beginning of the apocalyptic Wall Street financial meltdown. The problem is brought to the attention of the higher-up executives and finally the head of the corporation, as the proceedings continue into the wee hours of the night. He urges everyone to save the company by commanding a sort of fire sale of the worthless securities the next morning—promising all the traders who get rid of at least 93% of their stocks a bonus of about $1.5 million.
Everyone onscreen is superb in conveying the cold rationale going on here and the dollars at risk. Kevin Spacey shines as the company man who is being asked to urge his workers to sell the worthless stocks to unsuspecting clients to save the company, and is forced into it because he needs the money with which he will be rewarded. The unfair discrepancies between the salaries of the young men that do the most work and the executives is also laid out. The addition of having the Kevin Spacey character in extreme angst due to his beloved dog having died seems tacked on and unnecessary, but otherwise this first-time director does a great job on his film. The lack of a musical score seems to emphasize the tenseness and coldness of the disastrous situation. The phone sales conversations of the traders with their clients heard on the soundtrack are revealing and disturbing. The film unfolds before our eyes part of what the Occupy Wall Streeters are protesting about. Kevin Spacey said in a recent interview that the practices in Margin Call still continue.
If any recording is essential to the genre, this is it.